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“When in doubt, set it out!” Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only planned days of the year when curbside trash and recycling are not picked up as scheduled. If the holiday falls on or prior to your scheduled collection day during the week, collection is delayed by one day and Sanitation Workers work through Saturday to catch up. The following Monday, service resumes as usual.


The City of Knoxville's recycling program started in the 1980s with the introduction of its first Recycling Drop-off Centers. Mixed (or "single-stream") recycling arrived a few decades later, in 2011. Since then recycling has expanded and today 35,000 Knoxville households (just over 50%!) are signed up for this free and convenient service. Knoxville's recycling households are saving space in our landfill, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating jobs, and contributing to the regional economy.

  City residents produced 135,416 tons of waste this past year. Here is the 2023 breakdown of disposal types by weight:
  Landfill Type 1 (Garbage)
46% (62,794 tons)
Yard Waste (Mulched)
24% (32,908 tons)
  Landfill Type 3 (Construction)
24% (32,405 tons)
6% (7,309 tons)
  Knoxville remains well below the national average recycling rate, but we we continue to make significant progress in the amount of yard waste that is kept out of the landfill and is instead repurposed into mulch.
  Information below represents all material recycled from the City's curbside program as well as from the five City recycling drop-off centers
  Curbside Collection 67% Mixed Paper 9%
  Cardboard 10% Plastic 3%
  Glass 10% Metals 1%
  Knoxville recycled 7,309 tons of material this year, the equivalent weight of 14,7365 polar bears!
  We recycled enough material to save...
  6,861,373 kWh
2.3 mil gallons of water
7,505 trees
314,477 gallons of oil
  145 jobs
  The Knoxville Compost Project, established in 2022, provides an outlet for citizens to drop off accepted food scraps at various locations to be composted instead of being landfilled.
We composted 15,298 lbs. in 2023!
   Click here to view Waste Profile in PDF format
The mixed recycling collected in the curbside bins is delivered to WestRock, the materials recovery facility located near downtown Knoxville. Here, workers and then high-tech equipment remove contaminants and sort the recyclables into various materials. Paper, cardboard, metals, and plastics are then baled and sold to manufacturers in Knoxville and in the surrounding Southeast region who in turn use them to make new products.

Recycling remains viable in our community when everyone does their part to minimize detrimental contamination. Some items that are not recyclable can contaminate the purity and thus the value and salability of other materials, can damage the recycling equipment, and can pose health and safety risks for workers. Although it seems counter-intuitive, it is always best to throw an item in the trash unless you are certain it is recyclable.

Remember this rule of thumb: when in doubt, throw it out! Double check the list of materials accepted in the curbside recycling carts and at the recycling drop-off centers, and use the "What Goes Where" look-up tool to see if a particular item is accepted before you "wish-cycle" it.

NOTE: A number of  reusable household items are not accepted in the curbside recycling bin or at the City of Knoxville's recycling drop-off locations but are welcomed elsewhere. Visit our Specialty Recycling and Donations Guide and our Household Hazardous Waste Facility page to find out how you can give these items a second life. 

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact the Waste and Resources Management office. 

View Our Curbside Recycling Poster Here

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Note: Subscribers will receive one to two emails per year with tips, reminders, and other information regarding the City of Knoxville Recycling Program.


As of January 2017, glass is no longer accepted in the City curbside recycling carts. However, glass is still accepted at the City's five Recycling Drop-Off Centers and UT'S Recycling Center.

This change was due to a combination of factors. Unlike the separated glass collected at the Recycling Drop-Off Centers, glass from the curbside recycling carts must travel down the sorting line to separate it from other recyclable materials.

During this process, it:
• Breaks into tiny shards and contaminates other materials, such as the paper, plastic, and cardboard bales, which reduces their grade and value
• Damages the expensive sorting equipment
• Poses as a safety hazard to workers on the line
• Mixes with tiny bits of paper, caps, plastic, and miscellaneous trash, resulting in a glass-garbage product that is so contaminated that it is nearly worthless. 

The value of glass that has been through the sorting line is so low that no regional manufacturer will pay enough to cover the cost of processing and shipping it. Glass and other recyclables are commodities whose values fluctuate, but the value of post-consumer glass has been depressed for years and the outlook remains low. No matter how much we want to recycle a particular material, if no manufacturer wants to buy it, it just isn't recyclable. Many communities across the country have lost their curbside glass recycling in the last decade due to these factors.

Glass collected at the City's recycling drop-off centers is less contaminated and requires much less processing; its higher value makes it possible to collect and truck it to the closest glass factory, which is Strategic Materials in Atlanta.

Remember: The City's five Recycling Drop-Off Centers and UT'S Recycling Center are the only places in Knox County where you can currently recycle glass.


Rest assured: everything you place in your recycling bin that can be baled and sold is recycled. Unfortunately, a whopping 25% of what the average American places in their bin is not recyclable. The City of Knoxville's recycling program is not obligatory and residents recycle by choice, so our contamination rates are lower than the national average: just 17%. For more information about how well we're recycling, read the 2022 WestRock Recycling Audit and watch this video detailing what happens to Knoxville's recyclables.

Once the valuable recyclable materials from your bin are sorted and baled at WestRock, they are sold to various regional manufacturers in the following locations who recycle them into new products.

• KNOXVILLE, TN: Steel Cans, Aluminum, & Scrap Metal
• COWPENS, SC: Cardboard
• STEVENSON, AL: Cardboard & Mixed Paper
• SEMINOLE, FL: Mixed Paper
• TROY, AL: #2 Plastic Containers (HDPE)
• ATLANTA, GA: Sorted Glass (from recycling drop-off centers)
• CHARLOTTE, NC: Steel Cans
• CHATSWORTH, GA: #1 Plastic Containers (PET)
• CHICAGO, IL: Steel & Aluminum Cans (only every now and then when needed)

Recycling Cart Please note that currently, there is no “end-market” buyer for the #3-7 plastics, which make up less than 2% of the recyclables collected in Knoxville. When the City first rolled out its curbside recycling program, the #3-7s were sold, but that market has dissolved over the years.

Unlike glass, plastic bags, and food, which damage the recycling sorting equipment and contaminate the bales of other recyclable materials, plastics #3-7 do not “harm” the recycling system and are easily removed on the sorting line with WestRock's optical readers. For this reason, you may continue to place containers made from plastics #3-7 (no plastic bags nor Styrofoam, please) in your recycling if you wish. If you chose not to place these plastics in your bin, please check this webpage periodically to see if plastics #3-7 recycling has resumed. Until all environmentally friendly market opportunities for these materials are exhausted, we will maintain our current official guidance on cart stickers, dumpster signage, mailers, or on our Recycling Guide webpage.

Please feel free to contact our office with any questions.


Do you have questions about what you can recycle in your bin? We have the answers! See the simple guide below to learn what can and can’t be recycled or check the list of materials accepted in the curbside recycling carts and at the recycling drop-off centers. If you still have questions, try the "What Goes Where" look-up tool to see if a particular item is accepted before you recycle it.

For more information about the City of Knoxville’s recycling program, contact the Waste and Resources Management Office at 215-2817.

View the Can I Recycle That Guide in PDF format

Recycle Info