Recycling’s Clean Sweep

Atlanta recycling

Care and attention can keep a wide range of waste out of the landfill.

Atlanta recycling

You’ve finished your New Year’s celebrations when you face a perennial question: Can I recycle these glass bottles? Yes, but how depends on where you live.

In the City of Atlanta, glass goes in the curbside recycling cart with other party refuse such as aluminum cans, cardboard boxes, paper cups and plastic bottles. But DeKalb County customers in Dunwoody and Brookhaven and city customers in Chamblee have to haul their glass to a county drop-off site. Sandy Springs residents, who hire private companies for trash and recyclable collection, have to bring glass to Keep North Fulton Beautiful’s recycling center.

Cost and contamination are key factors in the mix of glass rules. The market value of recycled materials in general has fallen, especially since China stopped importing them in 2018. Single-stream curbside recycling—putting all recyclables in one container outside your home—has increased participation by making recycling easier. But it also requires a collection facility to separate paper from plastic and aluminum from glass. Broken glass can damage machinery or injure workers during that processing. Bits of glass can stick in paper and plastic and contaminate them so that it’s not worth recycling them.

Drop-off centers solve the problem by keeping glass separate, and as long as the glass is clean and dry, it won’t go to the landfill.

As recently as 2016, Atlanta sent glass from its curbside recycling to the landfill, but Georgia manufacturers now import recycled glass from other states to meet their needs in producing $1.1 billion worth of bottles and fiberglass a year, according to Georgia Recycles.

While you’re cleaning up from that holiday party, don’t throw away the Styrofoam and plastic cups and utensils if you live in Atlanta or Sandy Springs. Fulton County has joined Cobb, Gwinnett, Cherokee and Forsyth in the Hefty EnergyBag program that takes hard-to-recycle plastics and turns them into a liquid used to make new plastics.

Purchase special orange Hefty bags at Kroger and fill them with plastic wrap, bubble wrap, plastic straws and a wide range of plastic food packaging without foil lining. Everything must be clean and dry. Outside the City of Atlanta, place the tied-up orange bags in your curbside recycling container; inside the city, south of Downtown. take the bag to Live Thrive’s Center for Hard to Recycle Materials, known as CHaRM.

Residents of Atlanta still can toss unbagged plastic cups, plastic bottles with Nos. 1 to 5 and 7 on the bottom and many other plastic containers into the curbside cart. Keep the caps on the cleaned, dried bottles.

CHaRM recycles anything you would put in your curbside cart, plus items ranging from cooking oil and non-food-grade glass to tires, electronics, textiles and even cigarette butts, some for free. You can also take many of those items to Atlanta Recycles Day on the third Saturday of every month at Greenbriar Mall.

The Sandy Springs recycling center also accepts an expanded list of materials, though not as broad as CHaRM’s list, and only Sandy Springs residents may drop off some items, including certain appliances and computer accessories.

Just be careful to clean and dry anything that once contained food or liquid to avoid the contamination that can ruin a load of recyclables. About a quarter of items people try to recycle wind up in landfills because of contamination, according to recycling company Rubicon. Pizza boxes are a classic example. Although they’re cardboard, the grease that soaks into them makes them unrecyclable.

Pizza boxes and other contaminated paper products, such as napkins and paper towels, can join food waste in being composted at municipal drop sites such as CHaRM or through a program like the one run by CompostNow that exchanges compost bins at your doorstep weekly.

Atlanta recycling

Chamblee recycling



DeKalb County recycling


Georgia Recycles

Keep North Fulton Beautiful

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