Ya got trouble, my friend, right here

Trouble by the scenic Stones River

I say there’s trash piled up close to the sky

And that’s trash with a capital T

Which rhymes with high disposal fees

I say you got trouble, my friend

And I”m not one to dish the jive

Your landfills will be full in three to five

Just the name Municipal Solid Waste, MSW for short, sounds forbidding. But fear not. It’s just good old fashioned trash — the friendly kind that isn’t contaminated with things like  bacteria or petroleum.To prolong the life of landfills, the state requires that at least 25% of the solid waste stream be diverted to recycling or disposed of in some other way. About 48% of the waste that comes from homes here is food that has been thrown out.

The county and city are adding about  million tons of waste waste each year to the landfills. The Rutherford County landfill has about three to five years left before it is filled. The Middle Point Landfill next door is good for an estimated 10-12 more years.

A model waste disposal program

Here are the steps the consultant recommends for the city to have an ideal waste disposal system:

  • Cut public consumption of materials to reduce the trash flow
  • Recycle as much trash as possible
  • Compost biodegradable material
  • Transport the remainder to (The lower the number the higher the preference):
  1. Sanitary landfills
  2. Incinerators that generate energy from the burning process
  3. Ordinary incinerators

The report concludes with a series of case studies on how other cities are dealing with their solid waste problem.

How two large Canadian cities approach the problem

Toronto, a city of 2.8 million people, has only one landfill still operating, and it will close in 2029. According to the consultant, Toronto generates 950,000 tons of waste a year. (Ed. note:This is hard to square with the claim that Murfreesboro, which is far smaller, generates a million tons of waste a year.) Shame on us.

Right now, Toronto is extending the life of its landfill by diverting 53% of its waste. The goal is 70%. The city contains costs by getting residents to do much of the sorting of materials put out for recycling. Its chief problem is increasing recycling participation from people in multifamily housing

Vancouver, Canada, with 2.5 million people, combines recycling with a program to produce energy and metals from garbage that can’t be recycled. From one million tons of waste produced each year, the city now diverts 58%. It hopes to boost this rate to 80%, while cutting consumption by about 10% over the next five years.

Efforts by two cities closer to Murfreesboro in size

The planning report also looks at two communities closer to Murfreesboro’s size: Lafayette, La., and Montgomery, Ala.

Lafayette has closed its landfill and is carting 57% of is solid waste to a regional landfill. Of the other 43%, about 8,000 tons a year are recycled and 17,000 tons are composted. Right now the recycling program is losing money.

Montgomery closed its money-losing curbside recycling program in 2009. Instead, the city signed a contract with a materials recovery facility to take all its solid waste. Of the waste the city sends it. the facility is recovering about 60% for reuse. It is working on a system to produce energy from the organic materials it receives.

The consultant suggests that the city and county:

  • Divert construction site trash and office furnishings thrown out to programs like Habitat for Humanity.
  • Establish recycling and composting goals for residents and enforce them.
  • Consider banning specific materials from ordinary garbage collection and require that they be recycled.
  • Explore setting up a waste-to-energy program.