Video exposes Atlanta garbage truck collecting regular trash and recycling together


An Atlanta man decided to stake out trash bins in Midtown with his cell phone to see what happened when a garbage truck came by to empty them.

One of the bins is for regular garbage and the other is labeled recycling.

In the video he recorded, a sanitation worker dumped both cans in the same garbage truck. That's when the man with the cell phone confronted him.

The sanitation worker tried to explain that he saw there was paper in the recycling bin, and that contaminated the rest of the materials, making them impossible recycle.

The only problem with that argument is the lid on the recycling bin clearly states: paper is allowed.

Other people our cameras randomly met on the street in Midtown said they've made similar observations in the past.

So what would the city have to gain by pretending to recycle? We tried to ask spokespeople in Atlanta's Department of Public Works, and they were originally ready to speak with us, but when they heard our exact questions, they suddenly realized they're not allowed to talk to news reporters.

Later, an Atlanta Mayor's Office spokesperson sent us an e-mail explaining that all trash designated "recycling" collected by the city is supposed to go straight to a private company called Pratt.

At no time in the process are Atlanta city workers who pick up the recycling supposed to filter out "contaminated" loads along the way. All the sorting is left to Pratt at the end.

So far, the city has not addressed whether the Public Works Department is instructing its employees to regularly combine recycling and regular trash in their pick-ups, and, Why?

We spoke to a City Hall insider who says this circumstance occurs on days when Public Works does have the staffing or resources to pick up recycling the right way. The insider called that explanation "unacceptable."

We also tracked down an insider who works in the private recycling industry. He said cities generally pay his company to accept and sort single stream recycling refuse. These companies use high tech machines that can separate the different items (plastic, metal, glass, paper, etc.) and remove some of the non-recyclable materials that inevitably find their way into the piles.

In theory, by collecting recycling fees from residents and sending recycled materials to the landfill instead of to Pratt, Atlanta would pocket the difference.

We're working to get more clarity on this subject from the Mayor's Office, but they have been slow to respond.

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