Trash means treasure for some municipalities

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By Dwane Wilder

CAMPBELL COUNTY—LaFollette’s Street and Sanitation Department is making the most of the adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”


Director Jim Mullens said for more than seven years, his department has been burning used motor oil in a specially-designed furnace in order to heat the city garage on North Massachusetts Avenue during the cold winter months. 

“It saves us a lot of money on heating,” said Mullens.

“It probably saves $2,000 a year. It’s taxpayers’ money, so when it saves them money it’s a big thing. From the environmental standpoint, it’s good stewardship of resources. We’re probably going to see mandatory recycling down the road. What we’re trying to do is be ahead of the game. It’s always better to be proactive than reactive.”

Mullens feels like it is important for LaFollette to help as much as possible in the countywide recycling effort. He is rather proud of the city’s program, which he said is growing, and is very optimistic about the future.

Burning used motor oil may be the most innovative method, but it certainly isn’t the only item recycled in a countywide system that involves three municipalities.

Along with the City of LaFollette, the towns of Caryville and Jacksboro also operate recycling programs with curbside pick-up.

LaFollette began curbside collection of recyclable materials from residential areas about five years ago. That includes glass, plastic, aluminum cans, metal food cans, paper and cardboard. During 2012, the street and sanitation department picked up approximately 89,050 pounds of recyclables. Through September of this year, the total is 56,370 pounds.

“Last year, we got a grant to buy recycling cans, which are issued at no charge to residents,” said Mullens.

A total of 276 recycling containers have been issued so far in LaFollette. Residents can ask for as many containers as they need and must sign an agreement that they won’t be used as garbage cans. Mullens said a log is kept on file at his office that lists the locations of each recycling container.

“It’s not unusual for people to have two. They’re not restricted to one can per household,” said Mullens.

Each weekday afternoon following the morning garbage run, LaFollette Street and Sanitation Department crews head back out to pick up recyclables in residential neighborhoods.

Jacksboro and Caryville began their respective recycling programs two decades ago in the mid-1990s. L.E. Shelton, street and sanitation supervisor for the Town of Jacksboro, said his department averages picking up 10 tons per month in recyclables. Jacksboro crews take four trucks out each Wednesday morning to pick up curbside recyclables. More than 500 recycling containers have been issued to Jacksboro residents in a town of 2,000 people. Crews also pick up cardboard from local businesses if called to do so. Cardboard, paper and plastic are the most common items recycled by Jacksboro residents and businesses.

In 2012, Caryville produced 63 tons of recyclable materials, including brush, according to Street and Sanitation Supervisor David Muse.

Muse said has been advised by the state that Caryville needs to show a 25 percent reduction in garbage each year in order to be in compliance.

“Recycling is a way to do that,” he said.

Muse said he has loaned 100 recycling containers to residents and could use 50 more if he could get them.

The first stop for recyclables from the municipalities is the Campbell County Recycling Center on Towe String Road in Jacksboro. Center director T. Don Boshears said his crews haul an average of four tractor-trailer loads (approximately 60 tons) per month of cardboard. Boshears said the county is paid approximately $130 per ton for cardboard, which he estimates is 75 percent of all recyclables the center takes in.

“You get credit from the state because you’re not putting that in the landfill, but still it takes a lot (to make money). There’s a lot of labor involved in recycling,” said Boshears.

He said aluminum cans yield the most bang for the buck at 60 to 65 cents a pound, but they are hard to come by because people tend to sell to private recycling centers to make themselves a little extra spending money.

The Campbell County Recycling Center first opened on Memorial Drive 18 years ago, but later moved to its current location at the main county convenience center on Towe String Road. Six full-time employees staff the recycling center.

Boshears said the most unusual item someone dropped off to be recycled was a box of live kittens a couple of weeks ago. After taking them to the nearby animal shelter, he said they have found good homes.