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City council talks recycling in work session

Jacob Smith • Jan 12, 2018 at 3:36 PM

The Lebanon City Council talked about the city’s recycling program, as well as the future land-use plan, at its work session Thursday night.

Public Works director Jeff Baines told the council the recycling pilot caused a lot of overtime for his workers as they try to get everything picked up for the residents who signed up for the program.

Councilor Rob Cesternino felt paying the overtime was worth it if it’s saving the city money.

“If we’re paying $25,000 of overtime but saving $10,000 with the program, that’s worth it to me,” said Cesternino.

Baines said he’s not opposed to doing the job but wants to know whether the council has plans to keep the program beyond the pilot period. Council members agreed they didn’t have enough information to make that decision. Cesternino suggested a separate work session where the sole purpose was to discuss the recycling program, and Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash said he would schedule one for the first week of May. Baines said by then, he would have more than enough data to bring to the council.

“This is a good program,” said Councilor Chris Crowell. “I would agree with Rob that we don’t have the information we need.”

The Lebanon Sanitation Department picked up the single-stream recycling service after local business Green Moster decided to close its doors in May 2016.

With around 140 customers left wondering where to put their paper, cardboard, plastic and metal items, the council passed a resolution to create a 90-day pilot for the recycling program.

“If we don’t get enough people signed up, it may not last long, as it’s something we really need,” said Ward 6 Councilor Rick Bell at the time. He also praised the work of Baines and his staff for their effort to raise awareness about the program.

Green Monster left its 64-gallon carts for the city to use, and sanitation workers make rounds every other Monday to pick up recyclables for delivery to the Waste Management recycling warehouse in Nashville. For a time, the program operated at a loss to the city due to the cost of paying workers overtime and vehicle expenses. Though there can be payout with some recyclables, not all bring in money.

A second resolution was passed in November 2016 to give the Public Works recycling team a bit more time to make the program viable and with a steadily growing number of customers, the program neared a break-even point.

“The recycling program is a very good program,” Ash said in January. “We would love for it to pick up for the people, but it has to make sense for us to do it.”

The pilot program changed pickup days in January from every Monday to every other Monday to give the program some room to grow. Stormwater coordinator Liana Dranes, GIS manager R.T. Baldwin and Baines worked for months to get the word out to the community about the program through school programs, email blasts and more.

By the end of 2017, workers at the city’s sanitation department regularly emptied bins from 425 recycling customers, making the program more attractive to city leaders. 

“One thing we have to do is be more aggressive and challenge folks to think green, think clean and get involved,” Baines said last year, also citing the landfill currently used by the city near Murfreesboro only has about eight years before it fills to capacity. 

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