KINGSPORT — A recycling center drop-off at the Civic Auditorium is now open, even though the city’s curbside pickup program remains on hold.
“We’re trying to enhance the services,” said Ryan McReynolds, deputy city manager.
The city had provided a similar drop-off site at the Civic Auditorium but closed it a few years ago to accommodate the expansion of Dobyns-Bennett High School.
The new drop-off is at a different location that is more user-friendly and will be hidden by shrubbery. It can be accessed via East Center Street or Auditorium Drive and accepts cardboard, mixed paper, tin and aluminum, city officials said.
It is part of the city’s efforts to get recycling convenience centers as close to all residents as possible, McReynolds said.
“The intent is to look at the geographical footprint of the city and find convenient drop-off locations,” he said.
That has become doubly important since the city paused curbside pickup in the spring of 2020.
There were two factors that caused the stoppage: China, the largest importer of recyclables, stopped accepting them, and vendors became pickier about the type of recyclable materials they need.
“The standard of what they need is getting tighter and tighter and tighter,” McReynolds said.
The drop-off locations allow for the sorting of materials at the forefront, McReynolds said. The curbside program required extensive manpower to separate the recyclables.
Other cities have also backed off curbside pickup, either asking that only certain materials be recycled or ending the practice altogether.
In Kingsport, a subscription- service recycling provider opened this spring. Recyclops charges a fee for pickup. McReynolds said the city does not see the private company as competition.
“I just see they’re seeing a void. They’re coming in and they’re providing a product,” he said.
McReynolds said that although the city cannot conduct curbside efficiently right now due to market conditions, a private business can because it can pass fees on to its customers. He said there is a demand from a certain segment of the population that does want to recycle.
However, McReynolds said, the city will not base its decisions about the future of recycling around a private business. He said the city will continue to look at trying to restart curbside pickup.
“Whatever that did to Recyclops is not really in our decision matrix,” he said.
The city has provided boxes for the drop-off, but Sullivan County will be in charge of picking up the materials.
The city also has drop-off locations in Colonial Heights, in Sullivan Gardens, on Industry Drive and on Brookside Drive.
In the near future, the city plans to move the existing drop-off location on Industry Drive farther down the road and expand it to a full-service, fully manned facility capable of accepting recycling, yard waste, household waste and construction debris.