Recycling 101

In Asheville and Buncombe County, all recyclables now get tossed in together, whether you have curbside pickup (green and blue plastic bins in the city, blue bags in the county) or use the drop-off points located behind Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co., in the Tunnel Road Wal-Mart parking lot, at Curbside Management’s headquarters in Woodfin, and in Biltmore Forest. Here’s what currently qualifies for household recycling:


Green bin

• Glass — bottles and jars, all colors, NO CAPS

• Metal — aluminum and tin (steel) food containers

• Plastic — narrow-necked No. 1 and No. 2 containers, NO CAPS

• Newspaper — including inserts

• Corrugated cardboard — (except waxed)

Blue bin

• Paper — all paper and pasteboard except paper towels, facial tissue, waxed paper or plastic-layered paper (such as pet-food bags)

Buncombe County

All of the above recyclable materials go in the blue bag — except for corrugated cardboard, which should be placed outside the bag.

Other Items

• Plastic shopping bags — definitely recycled at Food Lion stores, possibly at others; ask the store manager where the plastic bags end up

• Aluminum cans and corrugated cardboard — banned from the county landfill (and therefore from trash bins)

• Lead-acid batteries, electronics, tires and white goods (major appliances) — can be recycled at the landfill

It’s in the bag

Now that you know what to do with all the stuff you haul home, what about the sacks you haul it in?

Brown paper bags can be recycled with corrugated cardboard (preferred) or with mixed paper.

Plastic-film bags (both No. 2 and No. 4) can be “recycled” at most grocery stores — in the sense that customers can drop them in a designated box or bin. But what happens after that? Some stores recycle the bags; others simply trash them.

Of the major local chains’ home offices, only Food Lion answered this reporter’s questions about plastic-bag recycling. Employees of six other local groceries said those stores do recycle but could offer only vague answers about the nuts and bolts. (“They must go out on the truck that picks up pallets,” was a typical response.) One employee said his store routinely puts plastic bags in the trash bin, and as far as this reporter could determine, each store’s level of participation is mostly left to the manager’s discretion.

But Jeff Laurence of Food Lion’s Salisbury distribution center told Xpress that their stores load recycled bags onto the tractor-trailers returning to the warehouse after delivering a load of groceries. The bags are compacted, baled and sold to Trex Company Inc., which manufactures a weatherproof wood-replacement product used for decking and outdoor furniture.

According to the Trex Web site, the bags are ground up, heated and mixed with ground up scrap wood, then formed into a woodlike product that can be sawed and fastened into extremely durable outdoor structures. Including excess paper is a no-no when recycling plastic bags, but glued-on paper (such as price tags or bread-bag labels) is OK. Also — and this may explain the reluctance of Bi-Lo and Wal-Mart to discuss bag recycling — Trex indicates, “We cannot accept large amounts of blue-colored bags without prior approval.”

— Cecil Bothwell

About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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