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Public Works Temporarily Delays Biweekly Curbside Recycling Program, Will Address Increased Costs in FY21 Budget Process

Cortnye Stone

Department will also work to reduce 30 percent recycling contamination rate

Due to current financial constraints, Metro Public Works announced that it will temporarily delay the launch of biweekly curbside recycling pickup service in Nashville, which was announced last Spring and originally slated to begin in February 2020. Mayor Cooper has expressed a strong commitment to launching curbside recycling pickup every two weeks in the new fiscal year. Metro Public Works is working closely with the Mayor’s Office and the Metro Finance Department to determine next steps to fully fund the program.

As other municipalities are experiencing across the country, Nashville’s recycling costs have drastically increased due to changing demand patterns in overseas markets. Accordingly, the city’s current recycling vendor is reportedly losing money on its contract with Metro Nashville and has entered into negotiations with Metro officials. The Mayor’s Office will collaborate with Metro Public Works to assess the operational costs of both the current and biweekly service in the expedited FY21 budget process.

Curbside recycling currently costs the city about $2.2 million annually, and the additional service will add approximately $1.7 million in operating costs. Capital costs for the increased service will be funded through prior existing Metro capital budget allocations and grants from both the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and The Recycling Partnership. The Department of Public Works currently offers monthly curbside recycling pickup, which is not being impacted.

Over the next several months, Metro Public Works will also work with the Mayor’s Office, council members, community partners, and residents to offer robust education to reduce the 30 percent recycling contamination rate – the rate at which unrecyclable materials or items with food residue are placed into recycling bins – to maximize the return on investment of increased curbside pickup service. The department will be continuing the “Oops Tag” Recycling Audit Program, tagging residents’ carts when contaminants are found by an auditor. Additionally, staff will be launching a social media campaign to educate Nashvillians about how to recycle the right way.

“If recycling is contaminated, it can’t be processed, and it ends up in the landfill. That’s what we want to prevent. Our goal is to make the launch of every other week recycling as successful as possible—and that means we want the cleanest materials possible. Educating the public about how to recycle correctly is a huge part of what we will be focusing on over the next several months and beyond.” said Metro Public Works Assistant Director Sharon Smith.

Residents interested in recycling more are encouraged to request a free additional recycling cart via hubNashville by calling 311 from within Davidson County or by visiting Households may request up to three recycling carts.

For more information about Nashville’s recycling programs, call 615-862-5000 or visit the Public Works website.