published Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Not all plastics taken at Chattanooga recycling centers


by Cliff Hightower
Donald Carden uses a rake to remove plastic bottles and bags that cannot be recycled from a container at the Hixson Recycling Center on Wednesday. The city has made strides in plastic collection for curbside service, but the recycling centers are still lacking in taking many recyclable plastics.
Donald Carden uses a rake to remove plastic bottles and bags that cannot be recycled from a container at the Hixson Recycling Center on Wednesday. The city has made strides in plastic collection for curbside service, but the recycling centers are still lacking in taking many recyclable plastics.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

HOW TO SIGN UP

Anyone interested in signing up for Chattanooga's curbside recycling service should call the city's information line at 3-1-1.

MATERIALS ACCEPTED

• Aluminum

• Corrugated cardboard

• Dry cell batteries

• Electronics

• Fluorescent bulbs

• Glass

• Mixed paper

• Newspaper

• Plastics Nos. 1 and 2

• Steel cans

• Used cooking oil

• Used motor oil

• Wet cell batteries

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Not all plastics are created equal after all.

Chattanooga announced a month ago it would start accepting almost all plastics in its curbside recycling service. But that only goes for curbside -- not for the recycling convenience centers.

"The initial program was for curbside only," said Justin Holland, the city's sanitation manager.

The city officially started taking all plastics -- No. 1 through No. 7 -- a month ago in curbside pickup after going through a six-month pilot program. But the city's five convenience centers are still taking only plastics No. 1 and 2, Holland said.

To take more types of plastic, the city would have to buy five new containers for storage and the price of those containers is too high, with a total cost around $20,000 to $25,000, he said.

The city would not be able to recoup the cost of those containers either, he said, because the market price right now for all other plastics besides Nos. 1 and 2 is low.

And collections from the convenience centers are treated different than curbside collections, Holland said.

Curbside collections are taken to the Orange Grove Center, then sorted by workers at the facility. Orange Grove then bales up the recyclables and sells them.

Collections at the recycling centers are not sorted at Orange Grove since the recyclables are already presorted into the individual bins, Holland said. The city just takes each bin and sells the contents.

The various plastics need separate containers because the price would go down if the buyer did not know exactly what kind of plastic and how much they were getting, he said.

He did not say if there are future plans for buying new recycling containers for the various types of plastic.

Garnette Gleaves, a Hixson resident, said she wished the city would collect all plastics at the centers. Once a year, she and her family come to the Hixson center and discard recyclable items for spring cleaning.

"It would be nice if they collected all plastics," she said. "In a lifetime, you accumulate quite a bit."

Donald Carden, a worker at the Hixson convenience center on Access Road at DuPont Parkway, said he works at the center almost every day and must tell people "all the time" they can't drop off all their plastics.

"They get kind of irritated at times, to say the least," he said.

If the city would get some more containers, "it would help me out," he said.

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