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Charlotte Talks: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Recycling

Flickr/Tony Alter

Monday, April 16, 2018

Recycling. How it works, where all the stuff we recycle goes, and how it’s used. More importantly, is recycling making a difference? We find out.

We feel so warm and fuzzy when we recycle that plastic bottle, cardboard box or soda can. Recycling is an easy way to help the environment, but what actually happens to all the stuff we chuck in the recycling bin? Where does it go and how is it used? Is recycling really that effective and sustainable?

Despite the widespread practice of recycling, lots of recyclable materials still end up in landfills. Many plastics for example will still be around hundreds of years after we're all gone - and a recent study found that only 91 percent of plastics globally are recycled.

Recycling has been an effective way for local governments to process household trash in a way that doesn’t contribute to landfills, which can be expensive. Ahead of Earth Day, we get a report card from local and state officials and an environmentalist on how we're doing with recycling and find out exactly what happens to the stuff we recycle.


Jeff Smithberger, Director, Solid Waste Management, Mecklenburg County

Wendy Worley, leads the state's recycling program through the NC Dept. of Environmental Quality

Sam Perkins, Catawba Riverkeeper

Related resources:

Mecklenburg County recycling frequently asked questions

Credit Mecklenburg County

Credit Mecklenburg County

Erin Keever is Senior Producer of WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. She has been with the show since joining the station in 2006. She's a native Charlottean.