Landfill still unpopular in Cornersville

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cornersville residents and neighbors from the surrounding countryside filled the Town Hall to overflowing for a meeting to talk about Marshall County's solid waste plan with Bill Griggs of Griggs and Maloney last Thursday night.

A lot of the people present were those who had campaigned against the new landfill that was proposed for a site near Cornersville in the spring of 2008.

"We have nothing to do with the landfill," Griggs assured them at the start of the meeting.

He pointed out that once you've recycled as much as you can, and reduced your consumption as much as possible, the rest of the stuff has to go somewhere, and that place is traditionally a landfill. Trash was incinerated in Nashville, and composted in Johnson City, but neither of those methods is being used today.

People at the meeting seemed pleased with their once-a-week trash pickup, and the recycling facilities in town and at the convenience center on Hwy 129. There were pleas for people to recycle correctly and, of course, to do more of it.

Griggs pointed out that once you get people going on a recycling program, you have to stick with it, regardless of the fluctuations in the prices of materials. Recyclable cardboard, for example, has fallen from $130 per ton to $30 per ton. Is the recycling program able to store cardboard until the price goes up, or must it take whatever price is offered?

People asked for more publicity for recycling, and County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said a good time for increased publicity might be when Lewisburg kicks off its collection of recyclables in the remainder of the city.

Other county officials present included Mary Ann Neil, chairman of the county commission; Morgan Thomas, head of the solid waste department; Mike Wiles, executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board; and commissioners Jimmy Wolaver and Don Ledford, chairman of the County's solid waste committee. Terri Douglas of Waste Management attended, too. Five students who are participating in the Junior Leadership Marshall program were also there.

Everyone agreed that educating children to recycle is the key to the future. Alderwoman Lezlie Calahan said, "People are going respond to children; if we get the children involved it will work." She said, "My children got me into it when we had the landfill thing - now I'm more aware and my kids are aware."

Liggett confirmed that Thomas is already visiting grades kindergarten through sixth, countywide, to educate the children about recycling, and Thomas said that all County schools have single-stream recycling bins.

"Why is hazardous waste only collected once a year?" asked one member of the audience.

Griggs explained that the hazardous waste program is state sponsored and happens in each county at least once a year. Thomas pointed out that his department takes paint all year round. He also told the questioner she didn't need to save small batteries for hazardous waste day: they are now considered safe to put in the regular trash.

After the informational meeting, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen conducted their regular monthly meeting. Griggs stayed on and was invited up to the table to talk with them.

"I appreciate all of you all being here," he said. "We had a good meeting. You at the table are not just citizens but elected officials. What would you like to see in terms of solid waste?"

"I'd like to see the (recycling) bins emptied," Doris Arthur exclaimed.

Thomas explained that the bins are normally emptied on Fridays, and checked on Mondays.

"Would you empty them earlier if we called you?" Arthur asked.

"Yes, if at all possible," Thomas replied.

Griggs asked the board, "In your judgment, would citizens pay more for increased recycling service?"

Town Manager Taylor Brandon replied that he thought about 20 percent would be willing to pay more, but he thought "you'll hear more say 'I don't want to pay another bill'."

"We need to keep the interest up," Arthur said. "We are all so proud we stopped that landfill."

"What programs have you seen that gave incentives for recycling?" asked Brandon.

"I've heard of cities in the Northwest that have a scale on the garbage truck, and people are charged for the number of pounds they throw away," said Griggs.

Thomas said the Lewisburg recycling containers will all have Radio Frequency Identification chips, which should make it possible to keep track of who is recycling and roughly how much. He has heard of a program where good recycling habits are rewarded by a book of coupons from local merchants, and good recyclers could also be rewarded by a reduction in their garbage bill. Thomas called both of those ideas "reasonable cost alternatives" to scales on the garbage trucks.

The meeting was adjourned before 7 p.m., allowing everyone to get home and watch the Florida-Oklahoma national championship game.