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Recycling do's and don'ts | What items to keep out of your blue bins

Throwing away trash is simple. Recycling has rules. These are the do’s and don’ts of recycling in your community.

ATLANTA — From glass and plastic to Styrofoam and pizza boxes, it can be hard to keep up with recycling rules, especially during this time of year when people have so many packages arriving.

With Christmas less than two weeks away, even more trash is expected to be dumped as thousands throw away their tree and unplug their lights - or don’t.

Here in the City of Atlanta, recycling is collected from 100,000 blue bins every week from residents like Jim Goodrich. He lives in Haynes Manor in Buckhead and said he has recycled for decades, but recently something happened that has never happened before.

"The garbage had been taken, the recycling hadn't, and there was a one-page flier that said "oops!," Goodrich explained.

The flier is part of Atlanta's Feet on the Street program, where recycling auditors peek in your bins and alert you to any issues with the items you've tossed in.  

"The biggest challenge for the City of Atlanta is plastic bags...also residents bagging the recyclables," explained Kanika Greenlee, the program management director for Solid Waste and Recycling for Atlanta.

Here are a few tips and tricks that you can do to make sure you're recycling the right way this Christmas season and all seasons. 

The Do’s | Accepted Recycling Items in Atlanta 

  • Paper, including cardboard, as long as its clean (so no dirty pizza boxes)
  • Most glass, specifically food-grade glass, so anything food or beverages come in like wine bottles, jelly jars, etc.(but no wine glasses, vases, or mirrors).
  • Plastic, like food and drink containers (as long as they're clean)
  • Aluminum and metal cans (as long as they're clean)

Recyclable Do’s this Christmas Season

  • Live (not artificial) Christmas trees collection: Christmas trees are collected along with yard trimmings outside your home. A bag is not required for trees and the tree must bare. 

  • Live Christmas tree drop-off: Dropping off your tree is also an option at the annual Bring One for the Chipper program. Georgians can recycle their tree and be a part in transforming that tree into mulch later donated to other communities. The event will take place on Jan. 8. Click here for a list of drop-off locations. 

  • Christmas Lights: Fulton Metals Recycling in Georgia will take old Christmas lights and pay for it. They recycle the copper and keep Christmas lights out of landfills this holiday season. Click here for more information on how to find a location near you.

The Don’ts | Avoid these things

  • No Garbage Bags - make sure to not wrap your recyclable materials in bags 

  • No textiles or clothing 

  • Nothing that tangles, cords, hoses, or chains 

  • Absolutely no food or liquid - make sure to empty all containers

  • No Christmas ornaments

  • No woods or plastic furniture 

Hard to recycle materials

Hard to recycle materials are those bigger items that should not be placed in your regular curbside recycling bin outside your home or placed in the waste collection. The Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM) is where you can continue to recycle what you can’t curbside.

Hard to recycle materials include: 

  • Appliances and Bikes 

  • Cardboard Chemicals 

  • Cooking Oil 

  • Mattresses 

  • Paint

For a full list see their list click here. 

To help you keep track, the city has a Waste Wizard tool online where you can check if an item is recyclable through the blue bins, and if the item is not, the Waste Wizard will inform you where to bring the item.

If you have any questions about recycling pick up or obtaining a recycling container, reach out to your garbage disposal company or visit the City of Atlanta website to learn more about pick times.