The Public Works department in Lebanon has worked to bring the recycling program from pilot stage to certified city service since the first resolution was passed in May for a 90-day pilot program.
The first resolution allowed the sanitation department to absorb the pickups that Green Monster, a private company out of Mt. Juliet, was doing in Lebanon.
When the city took over the program, there were 143 former Green Monster customers now who now the service every Monday for $15 a month. The cost is added to their utility bill.
A second resolution was passed in November to give the Public Works recycling team a bit more time to make the program viable, and for the past 15 weeks, Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines said the program has nearly broke even.
In December, workers at the city’s sanitation department emptied bins from nearly 200 recycling customers by working up to 10 hours of overtime each week. Beginning in January, the pilot program changed pickup days from every Monday to every other Monday to give the program some room to grow.
Sanitation workers noted that very few recycling bins were completely full for weekly pickups.
The recycling pilot program has consistently kept 1.1 tons out of the landfill each week, and it is cheaper to take the recycling to Nashville than to take trash to the landfill, Baines said. Recycling from Lebanon is taken to a Waste Management facility in Nashville where it costs about $15 a ton to get rid of the items. Last year the cost to dispose of trash was about $12 per month per household, according to Baines.
“The recycling program is a very good program,” said Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash. “The problem is that there are not enough people on it to keep us going with it. We would love for it to pick up for the people, but it has to make sense for us to do it.”
Sanitation workers normally work Tuesday through Friday to pick up trash, with Monday set as a truck service and maintenance day. Since the initiation of the recycling pilot program, workers have worked overtime on Mondays to do the pickups.
“We can double our production just having it every other week,” Baines said, noting if the program sees significant customer growth, the guys could do pickups every week with a staggered customer schedule.
The Public Works recycling team now has until March to make this a viable option for the city.
The most recent plan of action is to give children in Lebanon Special School District a reason to get their family involved in the program. All schools in the district distributed a flyer Monday about a pizza party to be thrown for each class that gets the most parents to sign up for the recycling program. Each school in the LSSD will have one class winner that earns a pizza party.
LSSD children were recently participants of a litter grant that funded a three-year program to set up recycling at all LSSD schools. The grant funding ended in 2015.
“The kids all had that in their mind to recycle at the schools,” said R.T. Baldwin, GIS manger for the city and part of the public works recycling team. “We’re hoping the mindset is still there with the kids to be recycling at home like they were doing at school.”
In three years, the litter grant prevented over two hundred tons from going in to the landfill.
When a citizen signs up for the recycling program they are given a 64-gallon cart with pickups every two weeks for $15 a month added to their utility bill. Since the service is single-stream, mixed recycling, there is no sorting required by customers. Comparable single-stream recycling services in Nashville can cost more than twice as much for a monthly pickup when done by a private company.
Liana Dranes, stormwater coordinator for Lebanon and member of the public works recycling team, lives in Mt. Juliet and takes her recycling to a location in Hermitage every Saturday. “We have a family of five at home and we recycle,” Dranes said. “We tote our own because we don’t have this service. The garbage is minimal now and the recycling is full all the time.”
Any resident within the city limits of Lebanon is eligible for participation in the recycling pilot program. The public works recycling team will go before the Lebanon City Council on March 7 to give an update on how the program is doing.
For more information on Lebanon’s recycling pilot program visit lebanontn.org/234/Public-Works or call 615-444-0825 extension 5103.