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What Items Can I Recycle in Atlanta?

Apr 3rd, 2023

Recycling is a big, big job, and cities that have recycling programs are working around the clock to keep up with the sheer amount of recyclable content coming in each and every day.

It’s not easy, either. There are a lot of things that seem recyclable that just aren’t, and even more that need to be properly prepared before they’re ready to be recycled. 

Here is an overview of the items that can be recycled in Atlanta, the items that can't be recycled and the items that can only be recycled at the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM).

What you can, can’t and could recycle in Atlanta

What you can recycle in the City of Atlanta


Most metals you can put into your recycling bin are the aluminum and steel cans for soda, beans, canned vegetables and the like. Make sure they’re clean and you remove as much of the label as you can (hah, get it?) and you’re good to go!


Paper items that aren’t lined with wax are good to go into recycling. Most liquid and beverage cartons are lined with wax to keep the contents fresh, and that wax is hard to remove from the paper. 

Otherwise, most clean and dry paper products are safe to recycle. Magazines, newspapers, mixed paper and other paper products are good to go, as are nearly all cardboards. Make sure to flatten any cardboard first, though, to save space in the recycling bin. 


Plastic bottles and containers can be recycled with their lids as long as they have been cleaned and dried beforehand. If your plastic container contains potentially hazardous materials, then take the items to the CHaRM where they will dispose of it properly. 


Bottles and jars that have been properly cleaned can go into your recycling bin with the rest of your curbside-pickup appropriate items. Be sure to remove any lids or caps first, as they might not be recyclable and the processing workers may throw the item away rather than remove any lids.

If you’re looking for an easy way to remove labels and sticky residue from glass bottles, you can make a homemade glue-removing paste from items in your pantry. Mix equal parts baking soda and dish soap together until it forms a paste, then lather it onto the residue still stuck to the glass. Wait ten minutes for so, then use a scrubbing brush to clean the jar. The residue should come off with the paste, but you can repeat the process as necessary until it works!

Bottles and jars that have been properly cleaned can go into your recycling bin if your waste hauler accepts it as part of single stream recycling. Be sure to remove any lids or caps first, as they might not be recyclable and the processing workers may throw the item away rather than remove any lids.

What you can’t recycle in the City of Atlanta

Plastic bags

Plastic bags are problematic for many reasons, the main of which is that they can get stuck in processing machinery at the recycling plant and cause jams. Those jams can last hours or, if the jam is bad enough, days until the machinery can be fixed, during which nothing else can get recycled.

Luckily though, plastic bags can be recycled if you take them to the right place. Many grocery stores have plastic bag receptacles where you can drop off your used plastic bags, and you can also use this Drop-off Directory to find out exactly where else you can go!

The City of Atlanta does have plastic-bag recycling solutions, but not through their curbside pickup service. Check below to find out what other materials are also included in the hard-to-recycle item list!

Trash bags

Trash bags are like plastic bags and can’t be recycled — especially if they’ve been used! 

This also means you can’t put your recyclables in a plastic trash bag, even if the contents are good to go. If they’re unused, then trash bags can usually be recycled with regular plastic bags at plastic-bag specific drop-off locations. 


Though a good amount of clothes contain a good amount of plastic, you can’t chuck that polyester tee into the recycling. This goes for any kind of textile, including landscaping materials, tarps, covers and linens.

You can donate it, or you can take it to the CHaRM and deposit it there!

Cords, chains, hoses etc.

Tanglers of any kind are a big no-no when it comes to your curbside pickup — even if the item is made out of a typically-recyclable material! 

Chains, hoses, cords, ropes and other long, stringy items are called tanglers for a reason. They can get stuck in processing equipment and cause more damage than they’re worth, and recycling bins with tanglers in them can be discarded entirely to avoid potentially introducing the pesky items into recycling centers.

Food or liquid

This makes sense, right? You can’t recycle food or drinks, and you can’t recycle items that have been saturated with food or drink. Pizza boxes with grease stains can’t be recycled, and pasta jars with sauce still inside will be thrown away. No one is going to clean those items for you, so if you want them to be recycled, then give them a proper clean before you toss it in the recycling bin!

Hard to recycle materials in the City of Atlanta

For everything else that you’re looking to get rid of, there are other options beside the dump where you can send your well-loved items! You can also look up your item by name to find out exactly how to dispose of it. 

The Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM) offers recycling services for a host of unique and specific items, so you know your items are being reused rather than discarded. 

You need an appointment to drop off these items at CHaRM, so be sure to call ahead and schedule one before you show up!

Here’s a list of items accepted by the CHaRM:

  • Appliances
  • Bikes
  • Cardboard
  • Chemicals
  • Cigarette butts
  • Compost
  • Cooking oil
  • Document shredding
  • Fabrics
  • Electronics
  • Heavy duty glass
  • Mattresses
  • Metals
  • Musical instruments
  • Paint
  • Books
  • Thin plastic
  • Plastic bags
  • Styrofoam
  • Car tires

E-waste materials accepted by the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials:

  • Computers
  • Computer keyboards and mice (mice?)
  • Motor oil
  • Printers and cables
  • Circuit boards
  • TVs 
  • Lamps
  • Clocks
  • CD and MP3 players
  • Answering machines

Hazardous materials accepted by the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials:

  • Mothballs
  • Flea collars
  • Weed killers
  • Cleaners
  • Batteries
  • Fluorescent light bulbs

If you live in or near our luxury Atlanta apartments and are passionate about sustainability and recycling, then this is all good news! The City of Atlanta has a program to properly recycle, dispose of or reuse nearly everything you want to get rid of, so take advantage of it! Your tax dollars are paying for it already, so why not use it? 

Good luck!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/imordaf

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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