Responsible recycling for New Year’s cleanup

Habitat for Humanity volunteers with donations truck
TRUCK YEAH: Habitat for Humanity volunteers pick up a donated snowblower from a home in Weaverville. Photo courtesy of the Asheville ReStore

Holiday celebrations are invariably accompanied by the giving and receiving of new stuff — and the obligation to properly dispose of old stuff. Even the festivities marking the end of 2020, a year that brought major economic hardship for many in Western North Carolina, appear to be no exception.

According to Mastercard SpendingPulse, a retail data network, total U.S. retail sales Nov. 1-Dec. 24 were up 2.4% compared with the same period last year, with online sales up 47.2% year-over-year for the same period. Although WNC-specific data for that time isn’t yet available, taxable retail sales in the four-county Asheville metropolitan area were up 1.9% on 2019 from July through September, suggesting momentum for local retailers as they entered the holiday season.

As 2021 dawns, the glow of the holiday season fades and social distancing continues in cluttered homes, many will make resolutions to clean up their space. Here’s a look at the area’s more environmentally friendly ways to handle unwanted items.

Recycle right

Some of the packaging in which holiday goods arrive can be recycled through the standard curbside pickup programs operated by Asheville and Buncombe County. But items like tissue paper, plastic gift bags, bubble wrap and puffy mailing envelopes cannot — and can end up as contaminants in the recycling stream. In July, Asheville’s recycling contamination rate hovered around 8%, up from a low of 5% several years ago.

The statewide Recycle Right NC campaign, supported by local governments including Asheville and Hendersonville, urges residents to “When in doubt, throw it out.” Mixed recycling should not be placed in bags and should include only the following items:

  • Plastic bottles, tubs, jugs and jars
  • Metal cans and tins
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Paper documents, cartons and flattened cardboard

For those who don’t have curbside recycling pickup, Buncombe County accepts mixed recyclables at both the landfill in Alexander and the transfer station in West Asheville. The Curbside Management dropoff recycling center in Woodfin only accepts flattened cardboard.

Power play

Broken electronics can’t be recycled as part of standard mixed recycling, and they contain heavy metals like mercury and lead that can contaminate landfills. But Buncombe County does offer electronics recycling on specific days at the county landfill, including Friday, Jan. 8.

Residents can recycle old cellphones, computers, keyboards and other electronic waste through the landfill at no charge. According to Buncombe’s Electronics Management Plan, those items are then sent to recyclers with R2 or e-Stewards certification. Old TVs and computer monitors are also accepted at a cost of $10 for each item. The complete schedule of electronics recycling days is available at

Other local options for recycling electronics include Biltmore Iron & Metal Co. in Biltmore Village, Ecycleme in Swannanoa and the Hard2Recycle events sponsored by Asheville GreenWorks. The next such event takes place Saturday, Jan. 23, at the A-B Tech Enka Campus in Candler.

Give it away now

As previously reported by Xpress (see “Out with the old,” Nov. 11), area thrift stores have been overwhelmed with donations since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. But those resale outlets are still taking old items in good condition for a chance at reuse.

Options for gently used holiday excess include the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Asheville and Weaverville, the region’s multiple Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina stores and the WNC Bridge Foundation thrift stores in Biltmore Village and Weaverville. The Blue Ridge Humane Society thrift store, which had paused new donations throughout the holiday season, is now taking items on Tuesdays from 10 p.m.-1 p.m.

And several area organizations work to get specific types of donated goods directly into the hands of those who need them. The Haywood Street Congregation takes seasonal attire like coats and boots for its God’s Outfitters clothing closet; Homeward Bound of WNC gives old furniture and household items to clients moving out of homelessness; and the POP Project redistributes books to schools, shelters and prisons.

Edited at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 8 to reflect updated information about the Blue Ridge Humane Society.


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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Assistant Editor of Mountain Xpress, regularly contributing to coverage of Western North Carolina's government, environment and health care. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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