State and local officials were on hand this week to celebrate the completion of a building that will soon house Sevier County’s new recycling hub.
The facility was made possible through a $300,000 Recycling Hub and Spoke Grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which are awarded for the development and expansion of regional facilities to collect, transport and process recyclable material for multiple counties or municipalities. The total cost of the facility and equipment is projected to be about $2.5 million.
Sevier County Solid Waste Inc. on Ridge Road in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. acts as the central collection hub for business and consumer waste produced in Sevier County, including the cities of Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and all of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It processes about 300 tons of waste each day.
Residents of Sevier County do not separate recyclables from daily waste prior to disposal as is done in many areas across the country. Instead, Sevier County Solid Waste does all the separation. The current facility boasts a 70% recycling rate, the highest in the state, by separating electronics, mixed plastics, cardboard, tires and used oil for recycling and using digesters to turn organic waste into compost. The process maximizes the county’s limited landfill space.
While empty now, the new building will soon house a state of the art waste separation system designed by Bulk Handling Systems of Eugene, Ore. The system’s Nihot Single Drum Separator uses air technology to separate light and heavy material.
“Sevier Solid Waste has made great strides in its efforts to adopt clean, renewable energy strategies and deliver effective environmental stewardship while promoting economic development,” TDEC Deputy Commissioner Shari Meghreblian said. “We are confident these efforts will continue to pay dividends for the region and the state in the future.”
Approximately 2.5 million pounds of aluminum and 3 million pounds of tin and metal are thrown away in Sevier County each year. These will now be separated, cleaned and sold for recycling.
“The new building will allow us to capture 100% of aluminum and metals,” said Laura Howard, executive director of Keep Sevier Beautiful. “We will also collect plastics 1 & 2. It’s our goal to become zero waste where the non-recyclables will be used for alternative fuel.”
Tom Leonard, general manager of Sevier Solid Waste, told attendees at the building’s ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday that that once the metals are separated, they will be sold and could generate more than $500,000 per year.
“On behalf of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Superintendent Cash, I am thrilled to be here to express appreciation for our continued partnership with Sevier Solid Waste that enables us to process waste in a way that allows us to be good stewards of this special place,” said Dana Soehn, spokesperson for Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “We have over 10 million visitors that picnic, hike, and explore the 500,000-acre national park and leave behind 500 tons of waste. Through our partnership with SSW, we are already proud to be able to divert over 60% of our waste from the landfill into compost. With this new facility, we’ll be able to do even better by taking the aluminum, plastics, and metals out of the waste, which allows us to be even better stewards.”