'Green waste' recycle efforts targeted
If 2013 is to become the year that recycling efforts are stepped up in Loudon County, it will be through increased education and better use of Loudon County Convenience Centers - and possibly the implementation of some new technology.
The city of Loudon is likely to implement garbage collection fees this year, but curbside pickup of recyclables is not expected to be part of the discussion despite requests from some local residents.
Recycling programs are expensive and the city's budget is tighter than in many years, city officials said.
"It (recycling) is not in the budget," Lynn Mills, Loudon city manager, said. "We looked at this last fall. We have a small population. Curbside (recycling) pickup is suited to more condensed populations than we have in small towns."
Mayor Judy Keller said Loudon already meets the state's recycling guidelines, but the city would be looking at other recycling possibilities.
"We've never done individual pickup, but for that to work you would need to have whole neighborhoods involved," Keller said.
Loudon County Convenience Centers for recycling are located in the city of Loudon, Lenoir City and Greenback. Gordon Harless, recycling coordinator, said efforts by the centers is increasing in general, with recycling of most products up a bit from the previous year.
"Scrap metal is down," Harless said. "When the economy is bad, people tend to collect their scrap metal to sell it themselves," Harless said.
In 2012, Loudon County recycled a little more than 500,000 pounds of scrap metal, 780,000 pounds of cardboard, 177,000 pounds of plastic, 929,000 pounds of mixed paper and 274,00 pounds of electronics.
Steve Field, Loudon County Solid Waste Commission chairman, said meeting a mandate to reduce the landfill waste stream by 25 percent still presents a challenge for Harless.
Each year, solid waste districts must file reports to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation detailing what is being done to reduce waste to sanitary landfills, extend landfill life and protect the local environment.
Last fall, TDEC Solid Waste Supervisor Matt Maynard met with Harless and city officials to look at recycling efforts in place.
"There are significant penalties if we are not in compliance with TDEC regulations," Harless said.
Field said Harless is working with municipalities to reduce "green waste" going to the landfill. That area of recycling is less costly and offers possibilities for increased implementation, he said.
Shannon Ashford, TDEC communications officer, said the waste reduction diversion goal of 25 percent is nothing new. The goal has been in place since 1991 and all regions - including cities and counties - are required to meet the 25 percent waste reduction goal each year, Ashford said.
"It is important to note that the region failed to meet the goal, not the landfill," Ashford noted. If the goal is not met by the region, Ashford said a qualitative assessment is conducted. During the assessment, the region that hasn't met the goal is compared to regions with similar populations. The assessment looks at everything that went into the landfill and what was recycled.
Maynard's visit to Loudon County last fall was for the qualitative assessment, Ashford said. Fines, while possible, have not been levied in the past, she said.
Green waste includes leaves, tree limbs, twigs and other organic materials.
Bill Fagg, Loudon public works director, said the city processes 150 tons of chips a year.
"We've been chipping all of our limbs for 30 years," Fagg said. "We never take leaves or chips to the landfill. We give them to local farmers to put on their gardens. In two years, it turns into black dirt. They are easy to give away."
Green waste stream reduction offers some possibilities for cooperation and expansion, Harless said. Because of a change of rules, simply chipping green waste no longer qualifies as recycling the material. Harless said green waste must be processed into mulch or used for fuel for the county to receive recycling credit.
"We are hoping to be able to get back to the table with green waste discussions and see if we can work together more economically," Harless said. "We need to see if we can set up a system for green waste collection and look at our capital needs for collecting the material, storing it temporarily and finding a beneficial end use for the waste product. Wood chips can be ground into sawdust. Part of the challenge is finding an end use for the product so we can do it all affordably."
Wampler's Farm Sausage is completing installation of the world's first commercial CHyP (Cellulose to Hydrogen Power) generation plant. The plant will help power the manufacture of sausage as well as producing bio char, a nutrient-rich soil amendment as a byproduct.
Waiting in the wings for that project's completion, the Lenoir City Utilities Board is looking to install a $100,000, 250 kilowatt CHyP (Cellulose to Hydrogen Power) system at the city's wastewater treatment plant. Financed through a Clean Energy Tennessee Grant, LCUB will use wood chips from local sources as the CHyP System's feedstock to create synthetic gas, which will be fed into a natural gas generator to produce on-demand electricity.
The CHyP System is expected completely to offset the electricity consumption of LCUB's wastewater treatment plant, currently at more than 1.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, according to Craig Dunn, LCUB Electric Department director.
Shannon Littleton, LCUB manager, said the utility is positive about getting the project under way, but decided to wait until they could see it demonstrated.
"I think the board's wisdom was that they did not want to be the guinea pig for this project, but they would follow Wampler's," Littleton said. "Initially, we will just use tree trimmings and sludge from the wastewater treatment plant. It is a process that tends to use the solid waste stream to produce energy and it is an inexpensive process."
Installation of the CHyP plant should not take more than six months, Littleton said.
"We think we can have it done within the year," Littleton said. "We have electrical staff to do the electrical work. We just need time for the equipment to be installed."
At present, green waste is not going to the landfill, Lenoir City street superintendent J.J. Cox said. Trees, limbs and leaves are processed by the municipality.
"We grind it and use it to do mulching for our landscape projects," Cox said. "If you mix it, it will rot faster, so none of our leaves and limbs go to the landfill."
Some local recycling efforts are driven by area businesses and industries. Harless pointed out that cardboard recycling is up locally because cardboard is used to make shingles by a Knoxville company.
"Kimberly-Clark is a huge leader in our economy and they use recycled paper," Harless said. "Although we don't sell to them directly, a lot of paper ends up there. And Alcoa uses recycled aluminum."
End products that save money, produce energy and/or offset operating costs are ideal when budgets are tight.
The process is slow, but development of sustainable products using recycled materials is on the rise. Harless said the larger scale recycling efforts are more cost effective.
"If we recycled everything we throw away in Loudon County, we could increase our competitiveness," Harless said.
Education, he said, is a key component of that effort. The county is working in schools through the local 4-H program to increase awareness about recycling. Schools with recycling programs are North Middle, Philadelphia Elementary, Steekee Elementary, Loudon High and Eaton Elementary. "We keep adding one a year and pretty soon, we will have them all," Harless said.
Keller said education of youth will be necessary to change public mindsets about recycling. "The younger generation will teach us how to do it," she said.