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How to Be Green(er) in 2016: Recycle: Making Use of Our Used

Reduce: check. Reuse: check. Now, we’re recycling. The last imperative in the environmental refrain. Recycling is an important element because, like when we reuse, we give things (commonly, our trash) a second life and a second purpose. This is critical because our world and our resources are not endless. We live in a beautiful country and on a beautiful earth, and yet maybe sometimes we forget that. When we are stuck inside at our jobs or our homes or our cars, we can easily forget where all of our stuff comes from. It comes from the earth. And most of the time, once we take it out, we can’t put it back in.

All the trash we generate has to come from raw materials and virgin resources. Some of these resources, like trees, are renewable, and there are many programs in place to plant as many (or more) new trees as are cut down. Which is great. But a lot of our resources are not renewable; they are finite. And no matter which type of resource we use, as we are using it, the procuring, mining, processing, and manufacturing of the materials to turn them into things, all of that uses even more resources, energy stores which, again, may or may not be renewable. We use a lot. We make a lot, and so we have to use even more.

Once we’re done with an item, and we’re about to throw it away, of course it has to go somewhere. If it is not recycled, our trash will end up in landfills. It’s true: landfills have come a long way since the beginning. They are cleaner than they used to be, and once filled, they can be covered and become land to be used. But underneath that layer of sod is a huge pile of trash. Trash that leaks and leaches into soil, the groundwater, and the air. Trash that sticks around under the sod for hundreds, potentially thousands of years, before it biodegrades, if it does so at all. That hardly seems to be a solution, especially when our next trash bag will be filled with the same kind of materials: those that come from the earth but cannot go back to it.

So, it’s important. Recycling helps us to displace the amount of virgin materials we use and gives those materials new life as another item. In Knoxville and surrounding areas, there is plenty of opportunity to recycle. In many areas, curbside recycling is an option. You might have to pay for the service (you may not) but it could be available in your area and the convenience may be worth it. Otherwise, Knox County has seven drop off centers, where you can take your own recycling and often your own trash, eliminating the need for curbside pickup all together and probably saving you a few bucks. These centers are located in:

  • Carter. 8815 Asheville Hwy
  • Dutchtown. 10618 Dutchtown Road
  • Halls. 3608 Neal Drive
  • John Sevier. 1950 W. Governor John Sevier Hwy
  • Karns. 6930 Karns Crossing Lane
  • Powell. 7311 Morton View Lane
  • Tazewell Pike/Gibbs. 7201 Tazewell Pike

These centers not only collect the traditional recycled materials, but some will also accept other household items, as well, including:

  • Plastic (all plastics #1-7)
  • Mixed Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Newspaper
  • Aluminum cans
  • Steel cans
  • Glass-clear, green, and brown
  • Scrap metal (appliances, grills, and other scrap
  • Carpet
  • Car batteries
  • Propane cylinders
  • Auto Waste (used oil, oil filters, antifreeze)
  • Tires
  • CFL light bulbs
  • Mercury thermostats and thermometers
  • Cooking oil
  • Electronic waste

Additionally, some of these centers have Goodwill drop-off locations. Offering your used items, as long as they are safe, clean, and in good condition, is one of the best and most efficient ways to reuse/recycle our unwanted goods. That goes right alongside shopping second-hand, another good practice to get into.

No matter where you are, there should always be opportunity to recycle. You can contact your local government to find the best locations and options for you depending on where you live. For Knoxville residents, the website to check is
Knox County Solid Waste Administration. That will take you to the Knox County Solid Waste Administrative Office, where you can find more information about Knox recycling programs, phone numbers, and maps to the locations of the drop-off centers.

I want to pass along one more thing. While there is little argument against the benefits of reducing and reusing, sometimes we do hear that recycling is not as efficient economically (or environmentally) as we would like to believe. There is plenty of information out there and much research to be done on this topic; unfortunately, I won’t be covering all of that in this installment. Personally, if you couldn’t already guess, I think the pros of recycling heavily outweigh the cons. In fact, unless there are extremely special circumstances, I don’t even think the cons need to be considered. Recycling should be a part of our personal and communal lives and obligations. However, I am one opinion of many, and if you are interested in this debate, I’ll point you in the direction of this podcast:
On Point with Tom Ashbrook: Is Recycling Really Worth It? The conversation aired in October 2015, and it provides an informative and balanced argument for and against recycling. Here’s a link: On Point: Is Recycling Really Worth It?. It’s worth listening to on your commute to and from your recycling center.

I’d love to hear any tips or advice you have about recycling or your personal opinion about recycling’s pros and cons. If you’d like to pass a comment along, send me an email at with the subject heading “Going Greener”. I’ll make sure to include it in the next installment. Until then, let’s try to think about in which bin we throw our trash. Let’s try to make sure that trash is going to the best place for us and the planet. Let’s see what we can do.