It’s often said that, "They just take the recyclables to the dump," when referring to waste hauling companies that offer curbside recycling. That can unfortunately be true, but not for the reason people think.
When a hauler is forced to take a load of “recyclables” to the dump it’s usually because of contamination, meaning there’s more “trash” than recyclables. So, what can really be recycled? In Cobb, the general guideline is that you can recycle cardboard, paper, aluminum, steel, and plastics #1 and #2 in your curbside bin, though that can vary by hauler, and recyclables should never be bagged. Other items, even if they are recyclable, should not be placed curbside.
Your hauler takes recyclables from your curb to the MRF, or Material Recovery Facility, to be sorted. At the MRF, rotating drums, magnets, optical sorters, and AI robots transform truckloads of recyclables into separated materials that become raw materials for new products.
Take Pride in Recycling, Georgia! In Georgia, one-third of our nation’s recycled plastic bottles are made into new products such as carpet. Recycled cardboard and paper are used by companies like Georgia Pacific and WestRock to create new products without having to cut down as many trees. Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, and saves 6 gallons of gasoline in energy for every 12-pack recycled by avoiding the need to mine the earth for raw materials. Novelis, the world’s largest recycler of aluminum, is headquartered in Atlanta.
Some materials not accepted curbside CAN be recycled, you just have to know where to take them. Kroger accepts plastic film and packaging in storefront bins. This includes plastic grocery bags, dry-cleaning bags, bubble wrap, outer packaging for toilet paper, zipper bags and bread bags. Publix has bins for clean styrofoam like egg cartons, takeout trays and cups.
Glass is not recyclable curbside, but can be taken to WestRock’s Recycling Center in Marietta, or collected curbside by Cheers to Recycling. “Glass is infinitely recyclable! It also saves energy needed to create new glass, reduces space in our landfills AND conserves natural resources” states Jamey Moran of Cheers to Recycling. “I just couldn’t stand that there was not an easy, convenient way to recycle all the glass in East Cobb, so I started Cheers to Recycling, a curbside glass recycling service.”
Two local companies, My Green Earth and Cheers to Recycling, work daily to demystify recycling. They are hosting a “Recycling Roundtable” featuring a panel of experts including haulers, Cobb County Sustainability office, and our local MRF. “We welcome Cobb residents to the Roundtable, encourage them to ask questions, and take this opportunity to transform recycling doubts into feeling empowered that their recycling habits truly do make a difference.” states Bethany Mashini of My Green Earth. The event will be held at Sewell Mill Library on Friday, April 21 from 10:30am – 11:30am.
My Green Earth, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2022 by Bethany Mashini, and Jamey Moran serves as chair of the Board of Directors. Their mission is to inspire individuals throughout Cobb County to live sustainably, focusing this year on classroom recycling and low-cost rooftop solar. Visit https://www.mygreenearth.org/ to learn more and to explore how these programs can be launched in your schools and home!
This article was first published in the East Cobber magazine, April 2023.