Chattanooga's Public Works department is addressing one of the biggest problems facing the city's recycling program with an educational program expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.
The city will mail informational packets to its nearly 30,000 program users detailing proper recycling practices. The packets include a refrigerator magnet, a pamphlet and curbside recycling container stickers detailing what can and cannot be recycled along with pictures. The mailers are expected to be sent in the coming weeks. Public Works officials are asking residents to be on the lookout for the mailers, which will be coming from the city of Chattanooga.
"From my understanding, for quite some time, there's been questions on what can be recycled, especially in regards to glass," city recycling coordinator Kimberly Smith said. "We are working on bringing out an educational program that we will roll out here in the next couple of weeks to make it more clear on what can be recycled."
Recycling is an ever-evolving landscape, a panel of recycling leaders told residents during a lunch-and-learn discussion Wednesday afternoon. Recycling companies are often beholden to the market, meaning what is accepted can change, often leaving users confused about what they can put in their recycling bins.
The city received a sought-after, $29,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation earlier this year to fund the project. The grant funded outreach activities for permanent materials such as signs or labels and distributed mail.
Acceptable Materials in Curbside Recycling:
Flattened Cardboard (clean and empty)
Paper containers and cups (clean and empty)
Newspapers/Inserts, Phone books, Magazines, Junk Mail and Office Paper
Plastic Bottles, Cups & Containers (clean & empty)
Steel & Aluminum Bottles/Cans (clean & empty)
Non Acceptable Materials in Curbside Recycling:
"We ultimately chose to move forward with the magnet and curbside recycling container sticker based on cost and maximum impact," Public Works spokeswoman Colline Ferrier wrote in an email. "We thought to show and inform our curbside recycle customers what can and cannot go in our curbside recycling containers was the best option, especially because there have been recent changes to that list."
The main change was the program's recent decision to stop accepting glass. Glass is notoriously difficult for recycling programs. Glass shards and fragments were mixing with other recyclables and couldn't be separated, according to Public Works Administrator Jusin Holland.
The city's educational efforts were applauded by the private company the city uses to process and sell recyclables.
"The biggest challenge we have, and the city has as well, is communicating all the changes," WestRock Company general manager Cameron Chappell said. "It's changing for us all the time."
Acceptable Materials at Recycle Centers:
Plastics #1 & #2
Steel cans - (Rinse food containers)
Cooking Oil (Not at Batters Place Road)
Crankcase oil only
Wet cell batteries - (Lead acid batteries from vehicles, boats, and golf carts)
Non Acceptable Materials:
Non Computer Electronics
Correction: This article was updated to correct the spelling of Cameron Chappell.