Alabama Environmental Council’s recycling center to close soon. Here’s what you can do.

Alabama Environmental Council's Birmingham recycling center to close soon
Recyclables everywhere at the Birmingham recycling center. Photo from the Alabama Environmental Council Facebook page.

For 50 years, Alabama Environmental Council has been a leader in environmental protection. During that time, they’ve protected public lands, promoted recycling, educated, and advocated. And, they’ve operated the state’s oldest nonprofit recycling center, in Birmingham, for 40+ years.

By Christmastime, they may close their Birmingham recycling center. But, they’ll continue their work to keep Alabama beautiful. Without the Birmingham recycling center, AEC can focus on environmental conservation in Alabama.

Alabama Environmental Council will keep working to make Alabama beautiful, even after its Birmingham recycling center closes.
Alabama the Beautiful by Dawn Pennington. CC BY-ND 2.0.

Wait a sec. What’s happening with the Birmingham recycling center?

Alabama Environmental Council's recycling center to close in Birmingham.
The Alabama Environmental Council’s (Alabama Conservancy) Recycling Center in 1991.

Since the early 1970s, AEC has run Alabama’s “largest and oldest non-profit recycling center operation.” Now, a shift in the market for recyclables calls for a shift in AEC’s strategy.

Therefore, here’s the plan as it stands now:

From now through December 13th, Avondale’s community recycling center will open on Thursdays only. After December 13th, it may close.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, AEC is working to find a suitable partner to keep the Center open. For the past year, AEC has kept the Center open, despite a massive reduction in income from the sale of materials. Unfortunately, AEC can no longer subsidize this public service.

Alabama Environmental Council's Birmingham recycling center to close soon
Mural at the Alabama Environmental Council Recycling Center. Photo from the Alabama Environmental Council’s Facebook page.

Still, AEC has strong partnerships with both Birmingham and others in the recycling industry. They hope that one of these entities will take over the recycling services.

Board president Keith Johns explains: “the recycling center has become synonymous with AEC. But, this is just one of AEC’s programs. For the last year, it’s been the only thing we’ve done because we’ve had to struggle to keep it open. If it closes, we want people in the Birmingham area to know you have other options for recycling. And, AEC itself plans to refocus. We can make a bigger impact on recycling statewide than we can by operating a single recycling center.

Going forward, we’d like to work more on policy, and provide training and education to communities statewide. Locally, we actually have markets for recyclables – especially paper. By cultivating these markets, we can help local municipalities that are already running recycling programs.”

Where will we take our recyclables after December 20th?

Here’s where you can find local area dropoff centers:

Also, glass is accepted at Target retail stores in small quantities.

Each location operates limited hours. Please understand the restrictions on materials and operating hours before going.

Also, check out AEC’s website for a list of locations where you can drop off specific recyclable items.

Update: After we published this piece, Leigh Shaffer of Birmingham Recycling and Recovery reached out to let us know that people are welcome to drop off their recycling with them at 9 41st St. South in Avondale across from Mazer appliance. They are open 7:00 – 4:00 M-F

According to Shaffer, “We are just a few blocks from AEC. We are the facility where ALL residential curbside recycling is processed and sent to markets. We handle commercial recycling as well.”

What will AEC do if the recycling center closes?

AEC wants to return to its original focus on conservation of public lands. And, they want to strengthen local recycling efforts.

50 Years with Alabama Environmental Council from Matthew J Grcic on Vimeo.

“Originally the Alabama Conservancy, the AEC led campaigns to establish the Sipsey, Cheaha and Dugger Mountain wilderness areas, Little River Canyon National Preserve and the Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge. They have also been the state leader in the field of recycling and energy conservation.” Plus, the AEC created Forever Wild, and has fought for clean air and water in Birmingham.

Pat Byington, Bham Now
Alabama Environmental Council will continue to protect public lands, even after its Birmingham recycling center closes
The marker recognizing the dedication of the Sipsey Wilderness in 1975.

What you can do to help

There are a few ways you can help:

First, continue to recycle. Use your curbside service or drop off at one of the locations listed above.

Second, support AEC for #GivingTuesday, or make an end-of-year donation at www.aeconline.org/donate.

Third, let AEC hear from you. Send a comment to info@aeconline.org to describe the most pressing need you see for Alabama.

Fourth, volunteer. Every bit of time helps. Email Volunteer@AEConline.org to get involved.


Ultimately, whatever the fate of Birmingham’s community recycling center, Alabama will remain beautiful. Do your part. Support the AEC, find local drop off centers for your recycling, or volunteer. You – and the planet – will be glad you did.  


The Alabama Environmental Council was founded in 1969 by a group of passionate Alabamians, and is the oldest statewide conservation organization in Alabama. AEC has been instrumental in protecting public lands, advocating and educating for public environmental protection, and recycling. Today, the organization is still run by passionate Alabamians, and is working to preserve and protect Alabama’s natural wonders for future generations. www.aeconline.org

Author: Sharron Swain

Longtime change-maker | Storyteller | Mom of two boys | 5th generation Birminghamian on the Mendel side of the family | Adventurer.