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Posted on: July 2, 2020

[ARCHIVED] City of Alcoa Celebrates 25 Years of Curbside Recycling

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The City of Alcoa marked the 25th anniversary of the beginning of its curbside recycling program on July 1st.

The City of Alcoa first offered a recycling option by opening a drop-off recycling center, in 1992 at the Springbrook Road / East Edison Street intersection, which closed March 31, 2011. Originally constructed for the use and benefit of Alcoa residents, even though most of its users were non-Alcoa residents, the center continued to operate after the City implemented citywide curbside recycling in 1995.  The decision to close the center was brought about by the need to replace the 19-year old roll-off containers at a cost of at least $8,000 each. The waste-oil recycling tank remains at the site for the use of do-it-yourself mechanics.

The 1993 formulation of the Solid Waste Advisory committee became the foundation of the City’s curbside recycling program. Curbside recycling and garbage collection were part of recommendations formulated by the committee to address potential modifications to the City’s solid waste collection service to reduce waste disposal rates and cost of service.

Following recommendations from the Solid Waste Advisory Committee the startup of curbside recycling bins began in 1995.

Weekly curbside recycling allowed residents to recycle junk mail, office paper, file folders, corrugated cardboard, boxboard, plastic bags, and phone books in 18-gallon bins. At the time, the City of Alcoa had the highest percentage participation and recycling rate of any of the recycling provider, Waste Connections, Inc., curbside recycling customers.  1995 also saw the implementation of separation of brush and other bulky waste by residents when placed curbside for collection.

As a result of the recycling efforts, the costs of solid waste collection were reduced by 50% and has held steady since 1995 even though the customers served have increased over 16%.  Also, as a result, the life of the Alcoa/Maryville/Blount County Landfill has been extended. As an example, during this past year, the City recycled 379.51 tons, all material that was diverted from the landfill.

Recycling expanded on October 1, 2008, when Waste Connections, Inc. began accepting a much wider range of items for recycling that included corrugated cardboard, boxboard, office paper, magazines, junk mail, phone books, file folders, all colors of glass, plastics number 1 through number 7, and plastic bags. This expansion of acceptable materials was the result of Waste Connections switch to “single-stream” recycling where all recycled materials are mixed in collection trucks and shipped to Knoxville to be sorted. This popular process eliminated the need for residents to separate their recyclables.

Residential electronics recycling began in March 2009 with the City of Alcoa Service Center set up as the drop-off location for items such computers, computer monitors, televisions, printers, keyboards, mice, scanners, fax machines, telephone handsets, VCRs, cellular phones without batteries and other small consumer electronics. This program continues today and is limited to City of Alcoa residents only.

In 2010, the City began taking brush, wood waste and leaf collections to Kellems Recycling to be processed into mulch.

The RecycleBank program began February 1, 2011. The Waste Connections, Inc. recycle for rewards program offered residents the opportunity to reward themselves for their recycling efforts by allowing homeowners to earn “RecycleBank Points” which were redeemable for discounts / gift cards from area merchants, thus the rewards. The over 800 Residents who signed up for the voluntary program paid a $3 per month fee and received a wheeled recycling cart embedded with a computer chip. When picked up, the recycling truck recorded the weight of the cart and transmitted it wirelessly to an online account for the customer. RecycleBank participants curbside recycling service changed from weekly to every other week with the addition of the chipped 95-gallon wheeled roll cart. Non-participants 18-gallon bins were still serviced weekly.

Primarily due to problems with properly crediting customers with the correct amount recycled, the City terminated its RecycleBank contract in March 2013.

In February 2014, the City transitioned to citywide recycling collection on a biweekly schedule using 95-gallon carts, beginning another chapter in its ongoing support of recycling, and protecting the environment. The new 95-gallon blue, black-lidded carts replaced brown Waste Connections, Inc., carts, and smaller blue recycling bins that were in use at the time.

The bright blue carts were part of a new recycling project by the City of Alcoa. Approximately 1,829 out of the estimated 3,400 residential households in the City signed up for the new carts. They sported the logos of both the City and ALCOA Inc., the latter in honor of the 100th anniversary of Alcoa Inc.’s Tennessee Operations. As the City transitioned to the use of 95-gallon carts during the same year as Alcoa Inc.’s centennial celebration, it was fitting to include the 100th anniversary logo on the new carts. Within six months of the start of the transition, the City of Alcoa curbside recycling program grew to 2,083 customers or about 61 percent of the population, adding to the program’s success.

In January 2017 glass recycling came to an end.  The City’s curbside recycling service contractor, Waste Connections, Inc. suspended glass recycling from its curbside recycling program with the reason for the change due to their “equipment being highly damaged by broken glass and comingled colored glass has no market anymore.”

With everchanging technologies, recycling material needs, and the need to extend the life of landfills, efforts are underway to make glass an accepted item once again. With the use of glass grinding devices, glass can be returned to granular materials. Potential uses of glass materials are construction backfill, reflective paint additives and sand supplement.

Public Works & Engineering Director Shane Snoderly said, “Recycling in Alcoa has been met with great success and acceptance by its citizens. Alcoa’s residents continue to demonstrate increased environmental stewardship while leading their neighbors in Blount County and throughout most of east Tennessee.” 

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