Marge Bridge scans one of the new automated curbside recycling cans Tuesday. David Grace photo.
KINGSPORT — The city of Kingsport is rolling out new carts for its curbside recycling program beginning this week, a move being carried out in the lead-up to the June 3rd switch to automated recycling.
Kingsport began its curbside recycling program in 1991 and over the years the service has grown from three-man routes collecting 1,400 tons of material a year to four-man routes collecting 2,200 tons of material a year. In 2012, the service collected 1,800 tons of material.
In an effort to improve safety, capacity and efficiency, Kingsport switched recycling facilities from Tri-City Waste Paper to Rock Tenn of Knoxville, going to a single-stream recycling program (where all of the material is sorted at the facility) rather than at the curb by city employees.
At that time, city officials said the ultimate goal was to eventually switch over to an automated recycling collection service using trucks similar to the ones used to collect residents’ garbage.
That day has now come.
The 10,000 or so residents currently participating in the city’s recycling program should be receiving their new 96-gallon carts over the next couple of weeks. Distribution began on the west side of town Monday, moving eastward, said Ronnie Hammonds, streets and sanitation manager for the city.
“I truly think our customers are going to find this much easier to use. You can roll it to the curb instead of having to carry it and it has a lid on it, so your materials don’t blow out,” Hammonds said.
The new carts look identical to residents’ garbage carts, except for the blue lid, and can obviously hold more material compared to the old, 18-gallon open-top bins. Just throw it all in the same cart and set it by the curb on your normal garbage collection day. But don’t throw garbage in the new cart and don’t set it out until the week of June 3.
“We can take virtually any plastic numbered one through seven on the bottom, everything from Solo cups to plastic storage containers, as well as metal and aluminum, magazines, newspapers and cardboard. Cardboard is particularly important as we were not able to accept it in the past,” Hammonds said.
The switch to automated trucks should reduce the potential for workplace injuries and reduce the number of recycling trucks on the road from four to three. Plus, the new trucks are very similar to the automated garbage trucks currently in use for household garbage collection.
“The old trucks could pick up 200 to 400 houses per day depending on the route. The new trucks will be able to do upwards of 1,000 stops per day. And for the customer, it allows them to recycle more than five times the volume of material without really having to think about it at all,” Hammonds said. “Automated trucks do allow us to look at new opportunities that we didn’t have the manpower to carry out before. For instance, curbside recycling is currently restricted to single-family residences, but we might be able to go beyond that in the near future.”
Residents are reminded to place the recycling carts about three feet away from any other object, including garbage cans, telephone poles, parked cars and mailboxes.
If any current recycling customer does not receive a new cart by June 3, call 229-9451 to request one. Carts are limited to one per household. In addition, anyone who would like to start curbside recycling can call the same phone number to request service.
Carts are limited to one per household, and current customers may keep their old 18 gallon container if they desire or place it in the new cart to be recycled. After June 3, Kingsport will no longer pick up recyclable material placed in the blue bins.
“We’re hoping two things happen,” Hammonds said. “People will see the carts and become more interested and it’ll make it easier for people to recycle more. Because of the quantities you can put in, it’ll allow for more cardboard and be more convenient.”
Kingsport spent $500,000 on the 10,600 new recycling carts and $250,000 each on the three new automated collection trucks used in providing the service. Kingsport pays Rock Tenn for its material handling services based on tonnage, and Rock Tenn reimburses the city based on the market price for recyclables. Hammonds said the deal is about break-even for the city.
Kingsport collected approximately 1,800 tons of recyclable material in 2012, saving approximately $60,000 in landfill tipping fees. Kingsport budgeted $587,000 last year on its recycling program, up from the $500,000 spent in 2011, mainly due to annexation and an increase in wages.