It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green in Atlanta (and GA)

Trying to be green in Atlanta might be new to you since you watched An Inconvenient Truth last year and it scared the wee out of you, but it’s not new for a lot of in-towners. In fact, I think it’s is one of the many common values that ties us together as a community.

To that end, what’s been chapping me for years and keeping Vaseline in business is this: why is it such a pain in the tuckus to be green in our fair and otherwise ironically green city?

As an example of our brownness, I pose the question: does your local/favorite bar recycle?

If you guesstimate the bars in the ViHi, L5P, EAV, Inman Park areas alone to be in numbers close to 150, and you figure each of them sells an average of 50 bottles of beer a night (not counting restaurants and their wine/beer consumption) we’re at 7500 bottles a day being [presumably] thrown into a dumpster and not into a recycling bin.

Don’t get me started on local business and their paper consumption. I worked for a firm just after Y2K that didn’t recycle because they couldn’t find anyone that would come pick it up, and they were one of three dozen tenants in a Buckhead office building. Is this still the case today?

If you find yourself flitting about anywhere in North Carolina (some of the best hiking and river paddling is just two and a half hours away) and looking out at the landscape from the passenger seat, you’ll notice recycling centers are abundant and tucked off on the sides of roadways.

In Atlanta, we have few options, and they’re well kept secrets. Most apartment and condo compounds don’t have bins, and many curbside pick ups claim to be recycling your goods but I have my doubts.

So with that, and with the new year and Al Gores and God bless him and the interwebs, I bring you what little bits of greenie I have under my

First (and with a HT to MetBlog alum Lori aka mingaling), there’s the ole drop and dash behind Whole Foods on Ponce. Here you can drop your dirties without sorting and scurry back around to the civilization side of the building, making you feel like a convict in the making – even if there is a big sign tell you it’s okay.

Reportedly, you can also drop your bits at Sevanunda, the Dekalb Farmers Market and IKEA though I’d try the two former before the latter.

For your nastier more complex electronic pieces parts after you go Office Space / PC load letter on ’em, you can go to Grady High School every third Saturday of the month. Accepted items include: A/V equipment, cell phones, computer components, coax cables, walkmans, mice, computers, copiers, digital cameras, wire, DVD players, fax machines, batteries, wireless devices, keyboards, microwaves, misc. computer peripherals, monitors, mp3 players, pagers, Palm Pilots, power cables, power supplies, printers, projectors, scanners, server cabinets, speakers, steel and alloy rims (!?), steel scrap, stereo equipment, telephone equipment, toner cartridges, TV’s, vacuum cleaners, VCRs and video game systems.

I have my own doubts about where the city itself does its recycling and how that goes down. Maybe I’ll do a little investigative piece on it, but in the meantime I’ll continue to drop my goods where I know they’ll be taken care of. For many in Atlanta it isn’t even a consideration, if you don’t own a home (ie you rent an apartment that doesn’t offer recycling) you’re SOL and have no choice but to be an uber earth Samaritan and ironically increase your carbon footprint while trying to do good for the earth. Oy.

To this end, and to out myself as the trippy dippy hippie I am at heart, I’ll tell you I recently went out to the website for Barack Obama where you can submit your thoughts to him (more accurately, his staff) about what you’d like to see changed. My submission said something like this, as inspired by a twitter convo with @lauter and @carl (see also: I can haz twitter?):

The post office is a government operation. As such, you could and should enforce recycling in their centers by offering bins for paper next to mailboxes, where thousands of paper bits are disposed of every day.

Additionally, to hold a liquor license in this country you should be held to a high standard for recycling glass. Those caught disposing of recyclables in “regular” bins should have fines levied.

If you’re as into it as I am, take five minutes and submit a note, it certainly can’t hurt and you don’t even have to print/mail it. Win win!

Now that I’ve done all that rambling I do want to give props to Decatur, where it’s a different story: you “pay as you throw” and recycling is free, so you’re better off recycling every little bit you can.

One last thing, because this seems to be the post that never ends and I’m giving myself carpal tunnel: November 17th is Atlanta Recycles Day. I shittith thee not.

Recycling drop off behind Whole Foods on Ponce. The sign lists items you can drop: glass, newspapers, magazines, office paper, all plastic containers and bags, aluminum and steel, and also indicates no sorting is needed.

8 Comments so far

  1. james hervey (jeherv) on January 13th, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

    i’ll give a shout out to taking public transportation or riding a bike

  2. bking on January 13th, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

    GSU has recycling bins in the hallways and stuff for the many, many bottles of coca-cola that get drunk during class and the reams of paper that get wasted on syllabuses (syllabi?) when you could just email the dang thing. The problem is that the recycling cans become trash cans because students just throw whatever into them. I have no idea if anything is really getting recycled.

  3. designbot on January 13th, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

    Why do you have to put in a special request with the city of Atlanta to get a recycling bin? Shouldn’t they be issued by default?

    And why does the recycling bin only have 1/10 the capacity of the regular trash can, yet is picked up half as often? I could recycle about 3/4 of my trash, if it would just fit in the bin, but it’s only big enough to hold one bag.

  4. jamsmooth on January 13th, 2009 @ 9:42 pm

    Sevananda no longer accepts or collects any recycling. They did at one point but there is a big sign saying "do not bring your recycling" there.

  5. georgepburdell on January 16th, 2009 @ 9:33 am

    If 150 bars have 50 bottles a night, that’s 7500 bottles, not 750.
    And since I’m a huge aluminum nerd, here are some aluminum can recycling facts:
    Aluminum can stock is 100% recyclable.

    It takes 92% less power to recycle aluminum that to create it from mined raw materials.

    An aluminum beverage container can go from consumer to recylcer and back on store shelf with beverage in as little as 60 days.

    PBR and schlitz cans are waaaaay more hipster than bottled beers…

  6. maigh on January 16th, 2009 @ 9:37 am

    @james – Totally!

    @bking – How sad is that? Shouldn’t a place where we’re responsible for shaping humans be better about shaping responsible habits? Life is about more than grades.

    @designbot – hell yes it should be a design bot and I don’t know about the size thing. Sounds like someone has an idea that could make a mint…

    @jamsmooth – good to know, thanks!

    @georgepburdell – damnit, where did my other 0 go? Thanks for the edit, I didn’t even notice it was missing!

  7. abby on January 16th, 2009 @ 9:59 am

    okay Burdell – I’ll embrace the beer cans, but mostly because Yuengling has cans, and you can smoosh them down to fit in your recycling bin better (now that they come every other week, this is a necessity).

    According to the revised chart ( – it’s a pdf), curbside recycling doesn’t come till week after next. Don’t know about everyone else, but they skipped our place this week. I guess we’ll end up heading to Your Dekalb International Farmer’s Market’s recycling area (which I have checked out, and is pretty huge and thorough).

  8. DCR (unregistered) on October 27th, 2010 @ 9:07 am

    The Dekalb Famers Market IS NOT 1-stop recycling. Believe it or not, they do not recycle plastice grocery bags, even though they do issue them if you don’t have reusable bags. They don’t recyle the plastic containers that they depense bulk foods in such as sugar, beans, etc. They also only take certain plastics, not all. Mostly number 1 and 2. There is no place to drop off plastics with numbers 5 and above or no number at all. I agree, having to park your reusable bags and go back to get them is a drawback. I assume this is for security reasons. But if you want to steal something, you can put it in your purse or eat it while you walk around. Is anyone concerned about the plastic containers that are not sealed in any way (rice, beans, etc.)? I love this market but more safety and health rules should be in place.

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