Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron talks about the possibility of replicating an East Tennessee composting operation he visited in Pigeon Forge.
Scott Broden, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
- Mayor Bill Ketron wants the county commission to stop kicking can down the road on solving trash issues.
- Recycling and composting operations in San Jose impressed County Commissioner Craig Harris.
- Every option should be on the table in pursuing composting and recycling operations, Harris says.
- Commissioner Steve Pearcy says public involvement is needed on trash solutions.
Rutherford County should pursue composting and recycling operations to replace burying trash at the private Middle Point Landfill, Mayor Bill Ketron recommends.
“My goal is to make Rutherford County become the first zero-waste county in the state of Tennessee,” Ketron said.
The county mayor recently led a group of 16 people to the San Jose, California, area to examine composting and recycling operations. Ketron also organized a larger group in September to visit similar operations in the Pigeon Forge area.
County and city officials are seeking long-term solid waste solutions at a time Republic Services expects the corporation’s Middle Point Landfill to close within eight to nine years off East Jefferson Pike in north Rutherford’s Walter Hill community.
Ketron said the composting and recycling operations could either be built by local government efforts, a contracted company or a public-private partnership.
Ketron: ‘Quit kicking the can down the road’
Officials have discussed establishing a county solid waste authority that would represent Rutherford and its cities.
“It’s not just the county,” Ketron said. “It will be a countywide effort with all four cities and the county working to eliminate our waste stream.”
A worker sorts items that can be recycled at an operation in the San Jose, Calif., area. Officials from Rutherford County visited the recycling center to examine what can be replicated. (Photo: Rutherford County Commissioner Craig Harris)
Ketron recently recommended to the County Commission Public Works & Planning Committee that officials pursue composting and recycling operations as soon as possible.
“I challenged the commission,” Ketron said. “Let’s quit kicking the can down the road.”
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Recycling operation impresses Harris
Commissioner Craig Harris agreed with Ketron that officials need to stop postponing decisions because of the pending landfill closure.
“I personally feel it’s five to six years,” Harris said. “Trash is the number thing because we’re on a time clock.”
Harris was among the officials who traveled with Ketron to California and East Tennessee to examine composting and recycling operations.
A recycling operation included conveyor belts with workers sorting out materials that can be reused, Harris said.
“It was amazing how fast they work,” Harris said.
Harris: Every option on table
Harris supports local officials contracting with a private company such as Phoenix-based Republic Services to build the composting and recycling operations. A publicly traded corporation, Republic officials also showed composting and recycling operations to the group that traveled to California.
“They have the ability to give us what we need, and they have been in the business,” said Harris, adding that he’s aware Republic officials are unpopular in Rutherford because of Middle Point Landfill operations. “They have a long ways to go to get community confidence back.”
The county could consider using another bidding company to operate a composting and recycling center, Harris said.
“Every single option is on the table,” Harris said.
Pearcy: Public involvement needed
Commissioner Steve Pearcy opposes any expansion of Middle Point Landfill, which buries trash coming in from 34 Middle Tennessee counties, including Davidson.
“That is a third of Tennessee,” said Pearcy, whose district includes Middle Point Landfill. “I’m in favor of doing something other than burying trash.”
A location for composting and recycling operations must be chosen Pearcy said.
“We need to study it,” Pearcy said. “There’s going to have to be multiple meetings and conversations and committee votes.”
The officials also need “the public involved in trying to come up with the best solution,” Pearcy said.
“It’s going to take everybody in this county to make this work, not just the mayor or commission,” Harris said. “It needs to start with our schoolchildren. We need to educate our children at this age, so it will benefit us in the future.”
Officials travel to California: Mayor Bill Ketron leads trip to Las Vegas, San Jose to see composting, recycling
Replacing Middle Point Landfill: ‘Mt. Trashmore’ may get replaced by composting operation when Middle Point Landfill closes
Mt. Trashmore gets stopped: Middle Point Landfill expansion plans killed by Rutherford County Commission
What do you think the county should do about solid waste? Reach Scott Broden at email@example.com or 615-278-5158 and on Twitter @ScottBroden.
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