First year of Big Blue shows jump in recycling numbers

Question: What has 4,860,948 pounds of glass, 6,631,612 pounds of paper and nearly 1,000,000 pounds of plastic? Answer: The first year of Asheville’s Big Blue recycling program.

The Zero Waste AVL program, featuring the blue single-stream recycling carts, rolled out in April 2012, and numbers show an increase of 4,240,000 pounds – or 2,120 tons – of material recycled over the previous year. That’s a nearly 25 percent increase.

“We get excited by numbers like these. This shows a really positive response from the residents of Asheville,” said the city’s Chief Sustainability Officer Maggie Ullman. “This has a significant impact on the materials we are putting in the landfill.”

So how much did Asheville recycle in the first year of Zero Waste AVL? That number rings up to 7,619 tons, slightly more than the weight of the Eiffel Tower.


The big goal of Big Blue is to divert materials from the landfill, and over its first year, Zero Waste Asheville reduced the amount of material sent there by 1,526 tons, a decrease of 6.5 percent compared to the previous year. That is enough material to fill 40 backyard swimming pools.

And speaking of swimming pools, with summer break winding down and Labor Day coming up, there is still time to squeeze in that cookout or picnic. And, Ullman says, there is plenty of opportunity to recycle after the end-of-summer party.

“All plastic containers you find at the grocery can go into the Big Blue carts,” Ullman says. “Potato salad containers, red cups, even clamshell salad containers.” Glass bottles, paper plates and aluminum pie tins, almost anything you find at the backyard barbecue, are also recyclable (Styrofoam, however, is not). To find out more about what materials can be recycled, go to

Asheville City Council approved the Zero Waste AVL program in August 2011, and the City of Asheville began delivering the big blue carts that March. The carts require no sorting or bagging. Zero Waste Asheville and other sustainability programs support Council’s strategic goal for Asheville to be the southeastern leader in clean energy and environmental sustainability.

Click here for more about Zero Waste AVL.