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Being smarter in 2020: Pandemic causes some changes to recycling routine

Being smarter in 2020: Pandemic causes some changes to recycling routine

From the June's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Bars, gyms face shutdowns; Tucsonans worried telemedicine might disappear series

The current pandemic has changed a few rules and made recycling a little more complicated. A few readers have said they can’t use their cloth grocery bags at stores or can’t find the plastic grocery bag recycling bins.

We checked with a few stores to get the scoop.

Albertsons and Safeway stores in Tucson will allow you to use your personal grocery bags. However, the store clerk won’t touch them, so you’ll have to bag your own groceries. If you end up with the plastic grocery bags, you can take them back on your next trip and recycle them. Bins or boxes are located near the entrance.

Bashas’ and Food City stores will bag your groceries in your cloth bags for you and they will also recycle plastic grocery bags with collection located near the entrance.

No other corporate offices responded immediately to questions, but common sense suggests that you take your reusable bags with you and give it a try. If you forget them, can’t use them or have plastic bags to recycle, take them with you the next time you shop — you can tie them all up into one bag —and ask a clerk if you can’t find the recycle location.

Another recycling question that has come up is what to do with batteries. A representative of Tucson Environmental Services has said that alkaline batteries can be disposed of in the trash.

Lithium batteries, button batteries, rechargeables and some others are a different matter. Some of these can catch fire if they come into contact with the wrong materials. You are sure to use a lot of button batteries if you have garage door openers, a home security system, key fobs to unlock your car and other small electronic miracles. Unfortunately, Tucson’s Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) facilities are closed until further notice.

This is a good time to try the iRecycle app, which can be found on the App Store for iPhones and the Google Play store for android phones. The app is free and can help you find where to take those questionable items even if you are out of town. We checked the app for lithium batteries. It suggested Batteries Plus Bulbs, which has four locations that will take these batteries. A phone number, address, hours of operation and link to the website are all there, along with a list of materials accepted for recycling.

We called Batteries Plus Bulbs and they do accept lithium batteries for recycling as long as they aren’t bloated, which they will still accept for a fee. Call first, in case some information is out of date during the pandemic.

The iRecycle app is a product of Earth911 ( which can answer a lot of recycling questions. Again, however, some information may be inaccurate during the pandemic.

We still recommend heading to for local information. There are several recent posts about batteries, but you can also ask questions. Even if you don’t live within Tucson’s city limits, the information is sound and much of Pima County uses the same recycling center.

Contact Johanna Eubank at

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Online producer

Johanna Eubank is a digital producer for the Arizona Daily Star and She has been with the Star in various capacities since 1991.

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