Recycle Standards-Memphis and Germantown


I was all set to publish an informative article about how to distinguish between those items that are recyclable and those which go into the trash and landfill. I then read the article about China no longer buying our recyclable items and the effects of that decision. Then the City of Memphis announced that its recycle contract with Republic Services is in question because Republic wants to to charge Memphis for taking recyclable materials rather than pay Memphis something. Germantown pays about $62 per ton for their materials. The whole recycle question is no longer a holier than thou virtue, it has becomes “how much you are willing to pay at the CHURCH OF RECYCLE VIRTUE”. We must have a public discussion about this subject and see if we can come to a solution that we can afford and still pay homage to our desire for a clean and waste free world. There is a question that I ask. “Is our recyclable material really being recycled or is it going into the general landfill? I really don’t know.


Following is the City of Memphis reply to my open records request asking them to compare their recycle policy to the City of Germantown.


Dear Joe Saino,


The City received a public records request from you on 12/29/2018. Your request mentioned “The following is the City of Germantown standards for recycling. Does the City of Memphis agree with this standard and if not what are the differences with the standard and additions, deletions or corrections.

Germantown stated: The following items can be recycled:
Due to the collection process, all recycling materials must be placed inside the roll cart. Any materials outside of the cart will be collected as household trash.

Mixed paper products: newspaper, magazines, brochures, paper bags, paper towel rolls, paper back books, cartons, greeting cards, regular and junk mail, cardboard beverage carriers, phone books, office paper, catalogs, paperboard boxes and file folders.
Corrugated cardboard containers, flattened and cut to no more than 3 feet by 2 feet
Non-corrugated cardboard commonly used in dry food and cereal boxes, shoe boxes and other similar packaging
Glass bottles and jars – no lids (empty and rinse)
#1, #2, #4, #5 and #7 plastic food and beverage containers –including bottles, jars, jugs and other rigid plastic containers.
Aluminum and metal food cans without lids
Aluminum beverage cans (empty and rinse)
Foil and foil trays clean of food
Empty juice boxes, soup and milk cartons (empty and replace cap)
Large Cardboard Containers
The City has a cardboard recycling container located at Economic and Community Development, 1920 South Germantown Road, available for all city residents to recycle large cardboard. All cardboard must be flattened.

The following items cannot be recycled:

#3 and #6 plastics – including plastic bags, plastic film, tubs and pots
Foam egg cartons
Food or liquid (no garbage)
Clothing or linens
Tanglers, hoses, chains, electronics or batteries
Big items (wood, plastic, furniture or metal)
Some items not collected for recycling by the City can be recycled at these convenient area locations:

Plastic grocery bags – A majority of local grocery store locations
Printer cartridges – Office Depot locations, receive a credit on a future purchase; cartridges refilled at local Walgreens locations
Batteries, including car, cell phone, camcorder and rechargeable batteries – Batteries Plus, 465 North Germantown Parkway
Cell phones – AT&T locations, at Verizon locations or visit Verizon online recycling program or visit
IPods – Apple Store, Saddle Creek
Used motor oil – Germantown Public Works Complex, 7700 Southern Avenue
Clothing, furniture and household items – Non-profit agencies or garage sale
Wire hangers – Some dry cleaners accept used hangers for reuse
Used electronics can be taken to the semiannual Amnesty Dumpster and Recycling Day”


Here is the City of Memphis reply.

The City has reviewed its files and has located responsive records to your request. Per the custodian: The City of Memphis’ recycling program includes all plastics except plastic films and bags and Styrofoam (which includes the black food containers at Trezevant Manor and the egg cartons which are “foam” (Styrofoam) products). We even accept plastic outdoor patio chairs, “all plastic” constructed toys. The plastic containers used at the salad bar at Trezevant are recyclable, but must be rinsed to remove any food residue.

We accept aluminum and steel cans; aluminum foil and the associated foil cooking containers; all paper that are not food tainted; glass bottles and jars (no lids); plastic bottles and jars with lids attached; and aseptic  juice, milk, soup, and vegetable cartons (found at stores like Whole Foods).

If Mr. Saino follows the Germantown rules he will be in compliance with our regulations, however, we do accept more items than Germantown.

These two standards seem to answer most questions. It seems that #3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) [trays for sweets, fruit, plastic packing (bubble foil and food foils to wrap the foodstuff] and #6 (polystyrene) [toys, hard packing, refrigerator trays, cosmetic bags, costume jewelry, CD cases, vending cups] are the main common items that cannot be recycled.

If you disagree with the above, I would love to hear from you with examples. It does take some work and thought to work towards a future where we try to recycle as much as possible.


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