Questions About Recycling

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Plastic Bags

Hazardous Waste

Single Stream vs. All-in-One Recycling

Brita Filters

Are the woven plastic bags that I get black oil sunflower seeds (for the birds) at Southern States recyclable? What about bags inside cereal boxes? Why doesn’t C-Ville have a bag-ban?

I am pretty sure those bags are woven polypropylene, for which no collection & recycling mechanism currently exists, unfortunately. The industry is aware of the problem! I suggest writing to the manufacturer.

On a happier note, any pure polyethylene (PE) bags, films & wraps–we are trying to get away from using the Resin Identification Codes (they are NOT recycling codes), but just for clarity, these are #2 and #4 flexible plastics, like plastic bags and air pillows–are recyclable at Giant and many other retail locations! Check out for further info.

Plastic bags inside cereal boxes: Betty consulted Anne Bedarf, Senior Manager at GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition. Here’s what she said: Many of these types of bags are recyclable–but only if you put them in the proper stream–not curbside or with hard plastic, and only if they are clean and dry. That means that by putting your curbside or drop-off recycling at McIntire in plastic bags, you are causing problems with the recycling facilities that handle them as they wrap around equipment and cause all kinds of issues. You can find drop-off locations and more information at

Under GreenBlue’s How2Recycle Label Program, these bags are labeled “Store Dropoff.” Kellogg recently added this label to their cereal packaging–see an example here. A note on the “plastic number”: just because a plastic has chasing arrows and a number does not mean that the plastic is accepted for recycling! Confusing, yes; the label is a “Resin Identification Code” and was never meant to be consumer communication. In fact, the chasing arrows will be changed over to triangles over time. For now, a #2 or #4 on a flexible plastic means it is acceptable for Store Drop-off!

Unfortunately VA has this frustrating Dillon Rule, which does not allow localities the control to pass a plastic bag ban Guess we’ll have to go with the alternative: teaching people how to crochet with “plarn” (plastic bags turned into yarn).

When and where can I recycle hazardous waste?

The Rivanna Solid Waste Authority holds household hazardous waste special collection events several times each year. The next one is scheduled for Friday March 6 from 2 – 6 pm and Saturday March 7 from 9 am – 2 pm at the Ivy Material Utilization Center located at 4576 Dick Woods Road (Rt. 637).

Where does Ivy MUC take household hazardous waste?

It can definitely be tricky to find out the actual final destination of household hazardous waste, but we did a bit of digging and discovered it’s actually a pretty intensive process! So, at Ivy MUC, they have household hazardous waste drop off days 2 times a year. From IVY Material Utilization Center, a waste management group from Philadelphia called Care Environmental collects the waste and distributes it—some is processed in their Georgia base, and some is sent out for incineration—depending on the item.

  • Latex Paint is recycled for reuse or when dried out, 5% put into a secure land fill
  • Motor oil & antifreeze: shipped to different facilities to be recycled
  • Batteries & Automotive batteries: sold because some companies collect them and can reuse parts of them
  • Fluorescent lamps: crushed & mercury vapors are sucked through a vacuum to prevent air contamination

What is single-stream recycling? How should I be recycling?

Single-stream recycling or source separation (which means RECYCLABLES ONLY) is CRUCIAL to getting the highest recycling rates, maintaining the quality of recycled materials (a commodity that has fluctuating market value), and diverting from landfill in the most ecologically responsible way. These three things are important to me (i.e. it’s not JUST about diverting from landfill). Therefore, the choice I make and recommend is to separate ALL recyclables in my home and for the remaining “trash” Dixon comes (because my neighborhood thought that that would get a 96% recycle rate) to separate whatever they can out at Vanderlinde’s facility.

I use Evergreen (Mike takes it to McIntire once a month) or you can use Allied Waste.


*Vanderlinde’s hauler goes into their household recycling, which I understand gets around 34% (though some think it’s lower).

*Their CONSTRUCTION and DEMOLITION gets 96%, which is great.

*I’ve seen their facility – it’s state of the art and their mission is to divert from landfill (which isn’t exactly the same as a mission to recycle everything)

*McIntire takes their recyclables (which are high quality because we separate – the right thing to do in my opinion) to various facilities including Tidewater Fibers in Chesterfield, Virginia

*Vanderlinde takes paint and CFLs (Lowe’s does take CFL’s but not paint)

*Allied Waste also uses Tidewater Fibers and the rest goes to their landfill, where they also use a waste-to-energy facility (I believe using the landfill methane) – I intend to take a tour down there soon.

We are lucky to have BOTH options here (source separation and the “all-in-one” that tries to get all the rest – that’s what city residents are doing) – but I do hope to see that day where we can do all of this curbside with three bins like in other cities: compostables, recyclables, and trash. To learn more, read our vision for the future of recycling.

Want to play a part in reaching our vision? Join the Zero Waste Warriors!

How do I recycle my Brita filters? And I’m curious — do they make them into a new filter or what do they do with them?

Two companies, Preserve and TerraCycle are recycling Brita filters to make such items as toothbrushes, containers, and even park benches! How neat, right!
So, here are some easy steps to give those old filters a new life:
1) Dry the filter by shaking the excess water and setting it somewhere to dry for ~3 days.
2) Collect your Brita filters.
3) Drop them off at a collection site near you or ship to TerraCycle!
a. The Whole Foods in Charlottesville is a “Gimme 5 Drop-off Location” that accepts all clean and dry No. 5 plastics, of which Brita filters are made! The bin is located in the cafe area. Please do not place any plastic bags in this container, as they are not No.5 plastics.
b. Start your own brigade! If you have friends or coworkers who also use Brita, encourage them to save used filters and once you fill a box, you can “join the brigade” online. Then, download the free label from the TerraCycle website and drop it off at a UPS location! US/brigades/brita-brigade.html