Kingsport 'pausing' its recycling program

A Kingsport automated truck collects a recycling bin.

KINGSPORT — Due to the recent closure of Tri-City Waste Paper, Sullivan County is no longer accepting plastic recyclables at its two transfer stations and eight recycling drop-off sites.

TCWP stopped receiving recyclable material on Feb. 15 and officially closed its doors on Friday. As a result, Sullivan County announced last month it would no longer be accepting plastics as of March 1.

The plastic recycling dumpsters have already been removed from the drop-off sites.


Lynn Johnson, director of the Sullivan County Solid Waste Department, said the county is working on a solution to begin taking plastic recyclables as soon as possible, but that no concrete plans are in place.

Johnson said the next closest company that could take recyclables is located in Knoxville, but it’s cost prohibitive for Sullivan County to ship its material there.

The closure of TCWP has left many residents and some companies and municipalities scrambling to find a solution. Johnson said Sullivan County is helping by collecting cardboard at the Tennessee Welcome Centers on Interstate 26 and 81, collecting paper at the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center in Kingsport and material from Domtar and Scott County, Va.

“We’re trying to help out as much as we can,” Johnson said. “It’s not just a problem in Sullivan County or East Tennessee. It’s a national problem.”

Since January, China hasn’t accepted two dozen types of recyclables unless they meet strict rules regarding contamination. This decision is having a ripple affect around the world.


However, the closure of TCWP is not having an effect on Kingsport’s residential recycling program, according to Ronnie Hammonds, manager of the Streets and Sanitation Department.

“We’ve not made any changes in our recycling program since we went away from accepting glass two years ago,” Hammonds said.

For nearly 30 years, Kingsport has provided curbside pickup for recyclables such as paper, plastic and aluminum cans, hauling in more than 3,200 tons of material each year. Kingsport has a contract with West Rock of Knoxville, whereby Kingsport collects all of the material and then pays West Rock a hauling fee to transport itl to Knoxville.

Last year, Kingsport paid West Rock $150,220; this year the budgeted amount is $160,000.

In addition to the hauling fee, Kingsport will spend $644,678 to collect recyclable material from residents, which includes the cost of labor and equipment.

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