You asked, we answered: 34 things you probably don’t know about Atlanta

What does Atlanta do with my garbage and recycling?

Recycling bottles smashed together
Photograph by Kemter/Getty

First, about solid waste—the type you throw away, that is. All trash collected around the city of Atlanta is taken to a Waste Management transfer station. The company then determines which landfill gets our garbage. Fulton County is home to three landfills—Safeguard (in Fairburn), Southern States (East Point), and Chadwick Road (Roswell)—so maybe it’s one of those.

Recycling materials, after getting dropped at a transfer station off Fulton Industrial Boulevard, have been getting trucked out to the Pratt Recycling Material Recovery Facility in Conyers, a huge place the Atlanta Recycles coalition calls “state-of-the-art,” since late 2017. Those materials are sorted, processed, and then baled by commodity—paper, plastic, cardboard, etc.—and sold to end-market users, such as International Paper and Georgia-Pacific. As to how much is actually sold, well, the city referred us to Pratt, who didn’t get back to us.

When we last chronicled the city’s recycling process three years ago, a glut of used glass in the market meant all your Snapple bottles and cracked Mason jars were bound for the landfill, despite your best recycling intentions. But now, the city advises residents to rinse out all glass bottles and jars and place them in blue recycling carts, alongside newspapers and junk mail. It should be noted, however, that plastic food wrappers and bags, like greasy pizza boxes, are considered worthless or contaminated for city recycling purposes and must go in the green Herby Curby.

This article appears in our November 2019 issue.