Kingsport's new recycling system triples past collections

J. H. Osborne • Jun 9, 2013 at 11:15 PM

KINGSPORT — The Model City’s new curbside recycling containers have been a huge hit with city residents, leading to a record-breaking amount of recycled goods on the first day the containers were used last week.

By the end of the week, the amount of materials recycled was up 350 percent over the last week with the smaller containers previously used by the program, Kingsport Streets and Sanitation Manager Ronnie Hammonds said.

“On a normal week we will fill three to four tractor-trailers of recyclables,” Hammonds said Friday afternoon. “At end of today (Friday) we will have loaded six tractor-trailer loads. In terms of weight, we took in 77 tons of material this week, and last week under the old program with the 18-gallon bins, we collected 22 tons. On a normal week in the old program, we would average about 14 tons a week.”

Hammonds said the reason for the larger intake total is that some of the new containers — rolling carts similar to what city residents use for garbage — have been out there a few weeks, so people might have started collecting earlier.

“But then again, we also use a 96-gallon container now, so a customer can recycle much more material every week,” Hammonds said. “We’re also seeing a lot more cardboard. We really didn’t have the capacity under the old system to advertise that, although we would collect limited amounts.”

The city’s curbside recycling has been around for years and is provided for no extra fee above property taxes.

City officials say they remain very sensitive to its operating costs — complicated by the fact that recyclable materials are a world commodity, with prices capable of swinging dramatically from week to week. Cardboard helps offset the cost of providing the program, as cardboard, along with aluminum and metals, generally have the highest market return.

Sanitation crews load the tractor-trailers, but they are collected and hauled to Knoxville by the city’s vendor, RockTenn.

The city ordered about 10,500 of the new carts for the program.

That number was based on an October 2012 survey of participating recycling households, which showed 9,984 participating residences.

The city is close to running out of the carts, and about 300 people are on a waiting list for a new 96-gallon recycling container.

More carts will be available soon, City Manager John Campbell said last week.

“We are extremely pleased with the response to our improved recycling program, which relies on the automated collection vehicle,” Hammonds said. “We do ask that participating customers remember to place the cart at least three feet away from all other objects, including mailboxes, telephone poles, vehicles and the regular household garbage cart.”

Some residents have expressed interest in the program, but they don’t have the space at their home or the physical ability to handle the cart.

The city continues to maintain self-service recycling convenience centers for those who cannot or do not want to use the 96-gallon container.

Convenience centers are available behind the Civic Auditorium, at the Demolition Landfill at 1921 Brookside Lane, and behind Ingle’s Market in Colonial Heights.

Through the curbside recycling program, the city can accept recyclable plastics with a number one through seven on the bottom, aluminum, metal food containers and other metals, cardboard, newspapers, magazines and glass. In addition, the city also accepts used motor oil as long as it is placed at the curb three feet away from any other object and is in a container clearly marked “used motor oil.” The city regrets it does not have a recycling vendor for Styrofoam, and cannot accept that product.

For any questions about the program, call 229-9451.

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