Knoxville Zero Waste Guide: Disposal

When you buy products from KnoxFill, we make it to transition your home and personal care goods to zero waste. But KnoxFill is more than a zero waste refillery. We're here to make zero waste easy, through resources, education, and of course through our refill and zero waste goods. If you'd like to learn more about a zero waste lifestyle and get great tips, these three blogs are a great place to start: Zero Waste Home, Trash is for Tossers, and Going Zero Waste

Reducing waste starts at the point when we obtain goods that will eventually have to be disposed of, but we recognize that a lot of options aren't great and we all have things we need to dispose of sustainably. This guide focuses on the disposal side of zero waste. We're also hard at work on a guide to zero waste shopping and ways to participate in the sharing economy in and around Knoxville!

Recycling in Knoxville

Curbside

If you live in the city limits, Knoxville offers free curbside recycling. Go to this website to sign up. Plastic containers, metals (aluminum, steel, & tin cans), mixed paper, newspaper, and cardboard are accepted in your curbside container.

City Drop-off Centers

Notably, glass is not accepted in the curbside containers. When the glass breaks, the shards contaminate the other recyclables. To recycle glass, as well as any of the materials listed above, please visit one of the city's five recycling drop-off centers. Information and locations can be found here.

UT Public Drop-off

A lesser-known option for recycling in Knoxville is the University of Tennessee Public Recycling Drop-off Center. It is located at 2121 Stephenson Drive Dock 24 and is open 24/7. The UT Public Drop-off accepts all the materials accepted in curbside recycling as well as other harder to recycle items such as the following:

  • Scrap metal: steel/iron, aluminum, clean copper, brass

  • Batteries

  • Wooden and plastic pallets

  • Plastic film and bags: NOTE that these items are not accepted in any of the city's recycling bins or centers

  • Electronic waste

  • Printer and toner cartridges

Please visit the UT Recycling Drop-off website for more information on what can be recycled there.

Where to Recycle: An Item By Item Guide 

The following list shows where to recycle each material:

  • Plastic containers (1 and 2)

    • Curbside recycling bin

    • City of Knoxville recycling drop-off centers

    • UT Recycling Public drop-off

  • Metal cans (aluminum, steel, tin)

    • Curbside recycling bin

    • City of Knoxville recycling drop-off centers

    • UT Recycling Public drop-off

  • Mixed paper/newspaper

    • Curbside recycling bin

    • City of Knoxville recycling drop-off centers

    • UT Recycling Public drop-off

  • Cardboard/paperboard

    • Curbside recycling bin

    • City of Knoxville recycling drop-off centers

    • UT Recycling Public drop-off

  • Glass

    • Knoxville city recycling drop-off centers

  • Wooden and plastic pallets

    • UT Recycling Public Drop-off

  • Plastic film/bags

    • UT Recycling Public Drop-off

    • Kroger, Food City, Publix, or Walmart (the recycling bins are usually located near the shopping carts)

    • Lowe's (usually found near the customer service desk)

Above: the plastic bag/film recycling at Food City is located right outside the entrance.

Above: Kroger's plastic bag/film recycling is also located next to the entrance.

  • Styrofoam

    • Publix at University Commons and at Northshore Town Center

The recycling area at the University Commons Publix is on the ground floor, on the parking deck side, next to the elevator.

  • Scrap metal

    • UT Recycling Public Drop-off

  • Light bulbs

    • Batteries + Bulbs: see store locations here

    • Lowe's (only compact fluorescent light bulbs)

  • Batteries

    • UT Recycling Public Drop-off

    • Batteries + Bulbs: see store locations here

    • Lowe's (only rechargeable batteries)

    • KnoxFill (only alkaline batteries) - return them with your empty containers, and we'll recycle them through a partnership with the Tennessee Environmental Council who has provided us with a Terracycle bin! Please tape the ends of the batteries to avoid charge transfer. 

  • Electronic waste

    • UT Recycling Public Drop-off

    • City of Knoxville Solid Waste Management Facility @ 1033 Elm St.

    • Select Knox County Drop-off centers: see list here

    • Batteries + Bulbs: see list of accepted items and store locations here

    • Best Buy (even offers discounts on certain items): see list here

    • Goodwill (computer-related electronics, CDs, DVDs): see list of accepted items and locations here

    • KARM: see locations here

  • Printer and toner cartridges

    • UT Recycling Public Drop-off

    • Best Buy (offers discounts on new toners): see list here

  • Hard plastics (refrigerator trays, plastic shelves, etc.)

    • UT Recycling Public Drop-off

  • Clothing/textiles

    • Make old, not-good-enough-to-be-donated fabrics into cleaning rags. If you're crafty or want to learn, you can also crochet/weave them into rugs, pot holders, bags, and more. 

    • City of Knoxville recycling drop-off centers (accept clothing in good condition to be donated to Goodwill) - please don't donate anything you or someone you know wouldn't think is good quality! 

    • Goodwill accepts clothing in good condition: see locations here

    • KARM also accepts clothing in good condition: see locations here

    • Clothing retailer H&M accepts clothing & textiles in any condition through their Garment Collecting Program. In Knoxville, H&M is located at West Town Mall. Take your textiles to a box near their register and receive a coupon towards your next purchase. 

Donating

Donating can be a great way to get rid of items that are no longer wanted but are still in good condition. Knoxville has many options for donating items like furniture, appliances, and other household items.

  • Goodwill: many locations and many items accepted, see both here

  • Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM): see locations here and items accepted here

  • Habitat for Humanity ReStore: located at 1511 Downtown West Blvd, see accepted items here

Composting in Knoxville

Reducing Food Waste

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, up to 40% of food intended for consumption in the United States goes uneaten, most of it ending up in the landfill where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful than CO2. Becoming more efficient in our food purchases and use is a crucial component in reducing food waste. Personally, I'm a big advocate of developing the ability to improvise when cooking. Too often, I've seen a recipe call for an obscure ingredient that no other recipe calls for and so the remainder goes to waste. Figuring out (often through trial and error) how to use unfamiliar ingredients in new ways plays a huge role in reducing food waste. Check out the NRDC's guide to reducing food waste for more ideas.

Where and How to Compost

There is no lack of home composting guides online these days. If you're lucky enough to live somewhere with a yard, this is a great option. I bought 10 feet of chicken wire, rolled it into a circle, and tied the ends together with aluminum fence ties to make a compost "bin" that is roughly a cubic meter, allows for tons of ventilation, and won't rot or breakdown over time--all for under $20!

For more information on home composting, check out the city's useful home composting guide.

Sharewaste.com is another great resource to find compost drop-off locations near you. We have several locations in Knoxville - visit their website and search the map to find one near you. 

If you don't have the means or desire to compost yourself, Knoxville is fortunate to have a private composting company called Green Heron providing this essential service. They offer several different plans and partner with local farms and greenhouses who use the finished compost.

About the Author 

 

Austin Reynolds is our resident order fulfillment expert. If you've ordered from KnoxFill, odds are that he packed your order with care! A zero waste aficionado, he has worked on zero waste initiatives in Poitiers, France and at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.