Center for Hard to Recycle Materials, a zero-waste drop-off facility, comes to Decatur next year
By Hannah E. Jones
Rather than grabbing the trash bags, Decatur residents will soon have a new, more eco-friendly way to clean out their garage or closet. In November, local nonprofit Live Thrive will break ground on its new zero-waste facility at 1225 Columbia Dr.
Last year, the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM) — Atlanta’s only permanent drop-off facility — recycled and repurposed over 13 million pounds of materials that would’ve otherwise gone straight to a local landfill.
Founder and Executive Director Peggy Ratcliffe started Live Thrive in 2009 and opened the CHaRM facility in 2015 because she saw a gap in Atlanta’s recycling and waste services. Today, the City of Atlanta doesn’t have a system to accept household hazardous waste, items like paint and pesticides, but refers residents to CHaRM’s services.
Over the last several years, the nonprofit and its CHaRM facility have seen exponential growth. In 2015, roughly 5,000 people visited to process their hard-to-recycle materials, and last year, that number reached over 63,000.
The new facility will sit on an eight-acre plot, with five acres dedicated to a community eco complex funded by a recent $500,000 grant from State Farm. The new facility will support Live Thrive’s goal to engage and inform residents about the importance of treading lightly on the earth, rather than simply offering a service.
“We have enough [space] that we want to make it a whole sustainability complex with gardens, bees and a fruit forest,” Ratcliffe said. “It’s definitely my dream because it allows us to have a learning garden for kids to learn about waste, how it affects the soil and the food they eat.”
She continued: “The success of getting people to recycle and become involved [relies] on understanding what causes climate change and what we can do to prevent it going further.”
While the waste facility will open early next year, the additional features — like the outdoor gardens — will take longer to arrange. In January, the team will begin working with Agnes Scott College students to prepare the space.
“It’s very exciting to get [the students] involved because they’re right around the corner,” Ratcliffe said. “We’ll offer our internships and jobs within the community for a lot of this work, which is another exciting piece of the plan.”
Preparing the land is slated to cost $1 million, with another $500,000 going to equipment for the waste facility. The expansion comes on the heels of the pandemic, which made the survival of nonprofits even more difficult.
Live Thrive weathered the storm using a combination of intentional strategizing, two PPP loans and grants from local foundations. During the height of the pandemic, CHaRM saw an increase in activity because folks had “time for to-do lists like cleaning out their closets or garage.”
As part of their fundraising efforts, Live Thrive is hosting A CHaRM’ing evening, a benefit on Thursday, Oct. 20 that will bring together local leaders and supporters. The leadership team hopes to raise $250,000 to support operations.
The evening will include a few words from Live Thrive, along with food and live music by Yacht Rock Revue. Guests are encouraged to dress in 70s and 80s best, and tickets can be purchased here.
The key to Live Thrive’s success, Ratcliffe believes, is that each visitor knows that their materials will be recycled and repurposed. Folks can visit their website for a list outlining each item’s trajectory. For example, musical instruments are donated to local kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them, and tires are made into mulch or used to fill potholes in the city.
“When asked, visitors say they use CHaRM because they know it will be recycled,” Ratcliffe said. “The trust factor means people know [their materials aren’t] going to a landfill. Materials really do have value after you’re done with them — whether it’s someone else reusing them or the materials being reengineered.”