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Environment & Energy Report

The Future of Recycling Is Sanitation Workers Rejecting Your Bin

Jan. 29, 2020, 10:00 AM

The early morning sky above Atlanta is still black, but a team of recycling inspectors is up and moving along Nacoochee Drive ruthlessly assessing the discarding habits of the residents.

The team gingerly tips one of the 96-gallon blue recycling pails placed curbside and eyeballs its contents. There’s folded cardboard, a few aluminum soda cans, and several empty milk jugs, but also a plastic bread bag and a ripped-open packet for mozzarella sticks. The team makes an instant call: reject.

The lid of a recycling pail in Atlanta.
Photographer: Johnathon Kelso for Bloomberg Green

The team tags the trash prominently with an OOPS label reminiscent of a hotel “do not disturb” sign. It has two...

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