Recycling at Your Own Place

Recycling is so '70s—and some people are still operating on the guidelines from back then, or from a few years ago, or from last month.

"With new research and new policies, it's hard to stay up on the news, and it's always a challenge to get the word out," says John Homa, solid waste project manager for Knoxville. A few noteworthy changes he'd like you to know about:

SEE-INSIDE ENVELOPES A-OKAY:

City collection centers and Waste Connections residential bins can both accept envelopes with plastic windows and plastic-covered magazines with the mixed paper.

NOW ACCEPTING FLIMSIER PLASTIC:

Both county and city collection stations will take plastics 1-7, which includes even see-through clamshells for to-go food. "Those we'd like clean, but they can be recycled," says Homa.

TRASH ALKALINE 9-VOLT, AA, AAA, C, AND D BATTERIES:

"We still encourage people to use rechargeable batteries or avoid products that require batteries, but you can now dispose of these type batteries right with the household trash," says Homa. "Recent research found that they actually help the breakdown in landfills."

KEEP THE LID ON PLASTICS:

It's no longer "thou shalt remove plastic lids" before recycling. "The lids have always been a different material, but now the plants where we send the plastics have equipment that remove those lids," says Derek Senter of RockTenn Recycling Knoxville, which handles the processing and sorting of collection center donations. "You don't have to mess with it."

LEAVE IT IN THE BAG:

It's okay to put plastic shopping bags in with the plastics.

And then there are the rules that haven't changed, and are more important than ever, says Homa. "It's really important not to put window or windshield glass in the glass bins—it will contaminate an entire load, and we have to ask the haulers just to take it straight to the landfill, which costs us."

And styrofoam still goes straight to the trash. "Technology has made it possible to recycle #6 styrofoam," says Homa. "But there are no markets in this area where you can send the styrofoam reasonably cost-effectively, so we don't accept it."