I used to think I was great at recycling.
Every time I found a triangle-adorned bin, I’d toss in whatever plastic cup I was holding, smiling like I’d just single-handedly re-frozen the ice caps.
It wasn’t until I moved into my new apartment in downtown Birmingham that I started asking questions. While I’m thankful to have on-site recycling, I noticed that there wasn’t much instruction for use.
Normally, if something had an arrowed triangle, into the bin it would go. I’m sad to admit that I’ve committed more recycling sins than saves. After some research, I realized that my recycling faux-pas weren’t just futile – they could be contaminating the very products I’m trying to recover.
Here’s the right way to recycle in Birmingham.
What’s Definitely Okay to Recycle
The most important thing to know about recycling is this – triangle does not equal recycle. It simply tells you what type of material you’re dealing with. The City of Birmingham regularly accepts the following materials:
- Plastics 1 & 2. This is the number inside of the triangle. These are generally milk jugs, soda bottles, detergent containers, and other jugs/bottles. Keep the lid on and rinse out any residue.
- Aluminum cans. Beer and soda cans make up most of this category. Make sure to rinse.
- Steel/tin cans. Think: canned vegetables and beans. Rinse and recycle.
- Cardboard. Break down boxes first to make them easier to collect.
- Paper. This includes junk mail, office paper, magazines, newspaper, and cereal/prepackaged food boxes.
What Not to Recycle
- Glass. It’s not currently part of the ‘ham’s pickup program.
- Food-soiled material. If you can’t get it clean, the residue could contaminate the entire batch.
- Plastic bags. I admit – I did it for years. But one of these can clog up an entire facility.
- Plastics 3 and up. Even if you think you know, always check the number on plastics.
- Styrofoam. Even when it is accepted, it’s usually too soiled with food residue to be used. Egg cartons are the exception.
Where You Might Be Able to Recycle
Don’t get sad if you’ve got a lot of the non-recyclables from above. I kind of fibbed. You actually can recycle most of these, you’ve just got to take them to one of these drop-off locations.
- Publix: Plastic bags, Egg cartons, Glass
- Target: Glass bottles, Plastic bags, Ink cartridges
- Walmart: Plastic bags
- Alabama Environmental Council in Avondale: Glass, and pretty much everything else
Figuring out how to recycle in Birmingham can be a challenge if you don’t know the rules. Luckily, the materials here are accepted regularly, so you’ll know when it’s okay to use the blue bin, and when you should just toss it.
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