NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Metro will not start picking up your recyclables twice as month as the city had planned, saying it would be too expensive. For now, the city will stick with its schedule of once-a-month curbside pickup.

Metro’s recycling program cost taxpayers $2.2 million each year. Adding another pickup during the month would have cost an additional $1.7 million. The problem is the market for recycled materials is declining.

Two years ago China announced it wasn’t going to accept recyclables from the United States anymore because too much of it was contaminated – think of residue left in peanut butter jars, crusts and goo left in pizza boxes.

“They have grease stains on them which make them very difficult to recycle, basically impossible,” said Ezra Schley, a staff member of the Tennessee Environmental Council.

Metro contracts with Waste Management for curbside recycling. The city said Waste Management wants to renegotiate its contact because it’s losing money.

Green Village is a private recycling service in Hendersonville.

“It always costs money to get rid of it,” said Jason DiStefano, Green Village CEO.

He has seen the market fluctuate and has adapted.

“We no longer take glass. We are evolving with the marketplace,” said DiStefano.

It costs a lot to sort out the bad stuff.

With costs going up, some cities, like Hendersonville, are rethinking how, or even if, they will provide recycling.

Hendersonville had a pilot program that is now complete. Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary is not sure what’s next for his city.

“We’re faced with, ‘I want to do recycling, I want do to recycling for the folks of Hendersonville,’ but that’s tough,” said Clary.

A strong argument for continuing recycling programs is keeping the waste out of landfills, which are filling up fast and are expensive to replace.



Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 Investigates team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

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