The city of Atlanta is distributing blue recycling bins to increase recycling in the city.
The city of Atlanta is distributing blue recycling bins to increase recycling in the city.

Atlanta’s plans to increase participation in its recycling program caught some Buckhead residents by surprise.

The problem was, the city inadvertently delivered some new 96-gallon carts to people who already had them. District 8 Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean said residents called her wanting to know what to do with the extra carts.

Public Works Department spokeswoman Valerie Bell-Smith said the error rate is 1 percent, or 685 duplicates out of 65,000 carts delivered. The city’s contractor picks up the extras for free. The large blue cans are replacing smaller, rectangular 18 gallon bins.

The bins are part of the city’s CARTLANTA program, designed to boost recycling numbers city-wide.

Since people are taking notice, it’s worth taking a moment to reintroduce the city’s program.

“Initial data is showing vast improvements in our recycling program due to the new carts in terms of cost savings from waste diversion to the landfills, and added revenue from increased recyclables,” Bell-Smith said.

Since the city began delivering the carts in October, recycling increased from a collection of 1,079 tons to 1,403 tons. Customers using the carts don’t have to sort one recyclable material from another, such as putting paper and plastic in a separate bin. Customers can use the bins for cans, plastic, glass, plastic containers and different kinds of paper including, cardboard and magazines.

Adrean said the city’s recycling rate needs to improve. Adrean said some families already had the carts under a pilot program or because they had purchased them independently.

“The city is completely committed to increasing our recycling rate,” Adrean said. “It’s at an abysmal 30 percent rate and we should at least double that.”

Keeping trash out of landfills will also save the city in fees to deposit trash in landfills. The Public Works department said the city spent $7 million on such fees last year, paying $29 per ton delivered to the landfill.

CARTLANTA’s frequently asked questions for customers notes that the city wasted $7 million worth of recyclable material last year.

Delivery of the new carts in northwest Atlanta ended this month. According to the Public Works Department, the carts cost $2 million and delivery cost $270,000. The money is budgeted in the city’s Solid Waste Enterprise Fund.

The program has created 18 jobs, the city says, and recycling capacity has increased from 4 million gallons to 9.2 million gallons.

Adrean said the city also has a backyard service for senior citizens. Anyone older than 70 or who has a physical disability can request garbage workers pick up trash cans placed just outside their homes.

“If you’re a senior citizen and the bin is too damn heavy, they’ll go and do it for you,” Adrean said. “Call 404-330-6333 and say, ‘I’m 70 years old, please pick it up.’”

Tom Gordon, President of the Ardmore Park Neighborhood Association, said there hasn’t been too much confusion around his neighborhood about the new bins and residents like the program so far.

“I think it’s a good one, actually. It saves money in the long run,” Gordon said. “For that matter, if you consider how much recyclable material people throw away, it gives you more cubic feet of stuff you can get rid of.”

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of