Recycling Program Information for Schools and Teachers

Each county in Tennessee is required by the Solid Waste Management Act of 1991 (TCA §68-211-861) to reduce waste by 25%. This Act is intended for the protection of public health, and to enhance the quality of the environment.

Recycling is an integral part of meeting the goal to reduce waste; it preserves important natural resources from being depleted, and also reduces the amount of waste that goes to landfills.

Schools are an important part of the county’s plan to meet the mandates set forth by the state. The single stream recycling program is an innovative, simple, and progressive way for Rutherford County schools to take the lead in the state.

Tennesseans are throwing away over 5.6 million tons of waste into landfills each year. Unfortunately the 35 landfills will be full to capacity within the next 30 years which means that more and more valuable land and farms will have to be converted into landfills. Not a very good use of land when recycling can make as much as a 50% difference.

The 56 county and city schools typically produce between 23 – 28 tons of waste per day! Of that about 50% could be recycled, but the schools typically only achieve around a 14% recycling rate.

It is important for everyone to participate, so please follow the guidelines that are set forth. Rutherford County schools can lead the way to protect public health and preserve natural resources for future generations.

The Rutherford County government recycling program is for school-use only. Public dumping is not permitted.

For questions about the program, please contact environmental education coordinator Mimi Keisling at (615) 542-4633 or [email protected] or Trey Lee, assistant superintendent for Engineering and Construction, at [email protected]
Posters for the Single Stream Recycling Program are available HERE.
Recycling Program FAQ

Q-Where do all of the recyclables go after they are collected at the schools?

A-The recyclables are sent to a Materials Recovery Factory, also called a MRF, in Nashville. At the MRF they are separated, baled and then sent to market to be made into new products.

Q-How much trash do all of the schools produce each day?

A-The county solid waste department hauls the waste from a total of 56 county and city schools. The tonnage varies, of course, but on average it is about 23 – 28 tons of waste per day.

Q-How much of the school waste could potentially be recycled?

A-Solid waste surveys have indicated that on average 50% of school waste could be recycled. Rutherford County has set a current goal of recycling 25% each year.

Q-Why do I see trash trucks picking up the recycling? It seems that it is all being taken to the landfill.

A-The recycling truck is actually a trash truck that was previously used for trash, but has been converted instead to now carry recyclables.

Q-Exactly what items can be recycled?

A-Please recycle paper, cardboard, aluminum soft drink cans, steel food cans and plastics containers that are labeled with numbers 1 – 7. Styrofoam is the exception for plastic as this must be thrown into the trash.

Q-Why can’t we put trash bags into the single stream recycling bin?

A-There are two simple reasons why trash bags should be avoided as much as possible. First, the employees at the MRF must slow down the process to cut open the bags and empty the contents. Second, since the recyclables are processed on a conveyer belt trash bags are easily entangled. When this happens the MRF has to be shut down so that the bags can be cleaned out of the system. If trash bags need to be used in order to empty the contents into the single stream dumpsters, then please do not tie the bags. This allows the employees at the MRF to simply grab the bags as they go by on the conveyer belt.

Q-Why can’t glass be recycled?

A-While glass is certainly an item that can be recycled at a convenience center, it cannot be recycled in the single stream system. If it breaks during transport it contaminates the entire load. It can also potentially damage the conveyer belts and other machinery at the MRF.

Q-As a custodian, do we need to wash out the trash cans?

A-The trash cans do not need to be washed out every day, only when they are extremely dirty.

Q-Why aren’t the schools receiving a rebate on the recyclables?

A-The schools are not receiving a rebate for several reasons. First, the county government is hauling all of the waste for each school free-of-charge. This is at a great cost to the county solid waste department. Second, the recycling program is also being offered free-of-charge. Any rebate that is realized is applied to the operating costs of hauling the waste and the recyclables.

Q-Why can’t we recycle laminated paper?

A-Laminated paper can not be recycled because it is no longer just paper; it is a composite material that should be thrown into the trash.

Q-Can pizza boxes be recycled?

A-Yes, if they no longer contain food; please just empty and scrape out all remaining food and then recycle.

Q-Why do boxes have to be broken down?

A-There is limited space not only in the dumpsters, but also in the truck that hauls the recyclables. It’s imperative to conserve space.