- Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron says citizens should ‘eliminate waste stream.”
- Some schools do a good job with recycling, and Christiana Middle is the best, an official said.
- Schools have to lock recycling containers because of ‘illegal dumping.’
- Landfill costs are expected to rise, Rutherford County Solid Waste Director Mac Nolen says.
Rutherford County hauled 102 out of 108 single-stream recycling loads from public schools since fall break to Middle Point Landfill because of contamination, an official said.
“The schools are still putting their commodities in plastic bags,” said Mac Nolen, the solid waste director for the county. “That’s the majority of the problem.”
Sometimes food waste also gets into the schools’ single-stream recycling that consists of cardboard, paper, aluminum, tin and plastics. Plastic bags, however, are not accepted by Waste Management, which processes the county’s recycling materials in Nashville, Nolen said.
Nolen’s department hauls trash and recycling from 60 campuses that are part of either Rutherford County or Murfreesboro City public schools. The 108 loads were from Oct. 8 through April 12.
Middle Point Landfill, located in the Walter Hill community, is expected to close in eight to nine years. The state’s goal is to divert 25% of solid waste from the landfill, Nolen said.
Rutherford Mayor Bill Ketron recommends pursuing composting and recycling to replace Middle Point Landfill operation expected to close within 9 years.
Scott Broden, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
Ketron: ‘Eliminate waste stream’
Even if all of the public school recycling loads were accepted by Waste Management, the collections would fall short of the state goal with 17.1% being diverted from the landfill owned by Republic Services, Nolen said.
County Mayor Bill Ketron proposes to stop the burying of trash at Middle Point by pursuing a composting and recycling operation.
“We haven’t done a good job,” Ketron said. “We just keep on doing the same thing. We are not going to kick the can down the road any farther.”
Ketron said the first step will be to form a local solid waste government structure representing the county, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, La Vergne and Eagleville. Once that’s established, Ketron said greater educational efforts will be pursued to improve solid waste collections from the local schools, businesses and residents.
“It’s every citizen’s responsibility to participate in eliminating that waste stream,” Ketron said.
Christiana Middle, Overall Creek do good job
Some of the 60 schools do a good job with recycling with Christiana Middle being the best, Nolen said. Overall Creek Elementary is the top recycling campus among Murfreesboro’s public schools, he said.
No matter how strong a school’s efforts are, recyclables can still end up at Middle Point because they’re on a truck with contaminated collections from other campuses, Nolen said.
Chairmen for both public school boards agreed that the public schools should do a better job with recycling.
“Why the personnel at the schools don’t do a better job of with recycling, I have never understood,” said Jim Estes, Rutherford County board chairman. “I would like to see us do much better than we’re doing; but I know some schools do a good job, and others don’t seem to care. It’s kind of it like it is with the public.”
Butch Campbell, chairman of the city’s school board, said helping the government save money by recycling is a “wonderful idea.”
“But at the same time it’s going to take some effort not only from schools but from everybody else to do it and do it right,” Campbell said.
Schools lock recycling dumpsters
County Schools spokesman James Evans said the district’s maintenance staff does have frequent communications with the county’s Solid Waste Department about recycling.
It is nearly impossible for a district with 47 schools to monitor all recycling cans and dumpsters at all times because there’s not a dedicated personnel to check each load, Evans said, who questioned why Waste Management employees can’t sort out the plastic bags.
Residents have also been found to contaminate recycling and regular trash containers by dumping illegally, forcing the district to lock those containers, Evans added. County schools are trying various training programs to increase their efficiency, he noted.
Murfreesboro City Schools also locks its recycling dumpsters, spokeswoman Lisa Trail said. The district recycled an average of 27.4% of its trash during the 2017-18 school year.
“All schools have specialized receptacles for true trash and recyclables, as well as recycling teams,” she said, noting the district presents an award to the top recycling school each year.
Landfill costs to rise
The city school district uses a different way to measure percentages for recycling than what the county’s solid waste department uses in hauling loads, Nolen said.
Recycling used to generate revenues, but that’s no longer the case. The county pays Waste Management about $35 to $40 to process a truckload of clean single-stream recycling materials, and the cost goes up by $150 per ton for what’s contaminated, Nolen said.
Although the county can dump for free at Middle Point, Rutherford needs to find alternatives for a landfill that’s expected to close within a decade, Nolen said.
“In the future, our landfill costs are going to go way up,” Nolen said. “So if we get in the habit of recycling properly, we’ll be sending less to the landfill.”
What steps should the county take to improve recycling efforts? Reach Scott Broden at email@example.com or 615-278-5158, and follow him on Twitter @ScottBroden.
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