Recycling in Athens

by Sandy Cederbaum

A Brief History of Recycling in Athens

Athens-Clarke County began with a pilot program for curbside recycling in the fall of 1988. With the merger of the city of Athens and Clarke County in 1990, the issue of waste management came to the forefront. Shortly after the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County was established, the count Commission created the Solid Waste Citizen Advisory Committee to address the issue of waste management. In 1991, a group of 15 citizens that included environmentalists, waste handlers, and recycling entrepreneurs joined together to explore various recycling and solid waste alternatives. This Committee recommended the hiring of a recycling coordinator, and helped to select a waste reduction consultant. Together, they began to expand and improve the recycling program. They also began a comprehensive study of waste management strategies of other environmentally-sound cities. They found that a "volume-based" fee system for garbage gave customers economic incentive to reduce their waste. The reduction in waste would come in the form of recyclables and/or composting. The other innovation that the waste reduction consultant recommended was to establish a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). This facility makes the commercial and residential recycling programs possible.

The Material Recovery Facility (MRF)

The Material Recovery Facility (MRF) opened for business on August 31, 1995. The 22,000 square foot facility is located at 699 Hancock Industrial Way in Athens and it is owned and operated by FCR, Inc. of Charlotte, N.C.. At the facility, recyclables are accepted in two "clean: commingled streams" - paper and containers. For the complete list of recyclable items, see the Material Recovery Facility links on this page. Up to 120 tons of recyclables can be processed at the facility each day and the recyclable materials are marketed nationally, as well as internationally.

Athens-Clarke County has agreed to deliver 775 tons of recyclables to the facility each month. The following Excel File is a detailed breakdown of recyclables from Athens-Clarke County that passed through the Material Recovery Facility. This information, courtesy of the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Division, is for the fiscal year beginning July 1 of 2000 and ending June 30 of 2001.

Excel Spreadsheets for the MRF 7/00-6/01


Collect some data on your family's waste and recycling. Give the weight in pounds and approximate the volume in cubic feet.

Fill in the following table with your data:


 Garbage (lbs)

Recycling (lbs)

Garbage (cu. ft.)
 Recycling (cu. ft.)

 Week 1

 Week 2

 Week 3

 Week 4

Do some research to get a good estimate of the total number of households that recycle in Athens-Clarke County. Assume that your data represents the average recycling production for each household. Find the corresponding data in the Excel Spreadsheets above (you might consider finding the average residential recyclables for each month). Compare this number to your household's yearly or monthly recycling. Is your household above or below average? Find the average weekly weight of your family's garbage total output (garbage and recyclables). How much would you estimate your household produces in a year (estimate the weight and the volume)? Use an object that everyone can relate to in order to describe the weight and volume of your household's total output. Now refigure using only your garbage output. Does recycling in your household significantly reduce the amount of waste that you send to the landfill? Can you think of other ways to reduce waste in your household (Think about the packaging of your favorite snack food.).


I have scheduled a tour of the MRF for 8/16/02 (pictures and further detail of the facility to come)

What sorting hardware is used?

Where does it go after the MRF?

Is recycling cost effective?

Environmental/Ecological benefits

The University of Georgia generates approximately 700 tons of waste per month. Paper makes up 68% of the campus waste stream. When paper is made from waste paper rather than from virgin pulp, the manufacturing process requires less energy and significantly reduces the amount of air and water pollution.

Why Recycle?

Conserves natural resources and reduces the demand for both foreign and domestic materials.

Conserves landfill space by reducing the amount of solid waste generated.

Conserves energy used in the manufacutring, securing and transporting of products made from primary raw materials.

Generates revenue by selling many recyclables previously buried or burned.

Saves money by spending less on transportation costs and landfill fees.


Earth 911

ACC Solid Waste Department-Recycling Division