- John Sherman is Chairman of the Davidson County Solid Waste Area Council.
The potential ban on dumping garbage from Davidson County — and other counties outside its region — in the Middle Point landfill presents an opportunity.
This offers our local and state governments another strong reason to act faster on current waste management plans, roll back policies that contribute to landfilling waste, and adopt visionary policies.
Davidson County Zero Waste Plan
In late 2019, the Davidson County Regional Solid Waste Council adopted a long-term zero waste plan. Adopted by the Mayor and endorsed by our Metro Council, the plan offers a blueprint for how we can be more responsible with our waste and kinder to our neighbours.
Key to moving forward, the plan aims to minimize the amount of waste going to landfill. Some of its key recommendations include: enforcing current ordinances and enacting new ordinances that provide incentives for construction companies and their contractors to reduce and recycle construction waste; develop composting of food and other organic waste; and move trash and recycling to a pay system – like electricity or water – based on how much you throw away which is offset by how much you recycle.
By taking these three steps now, we will reduce the amount of waste going to landfill by 65%. Ask Mayor Cooper and the Metro Council to immediately support these measures.
We don’t wait. The city, through Metro Water Services, is working to expand recycling, options for food waste, and construction and demolition material recycling.
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We can accelerate this momentum by moving more quickly to adopt the necessary policies and practices set out in the Zero Waste Plan.
These actions alone will not suffice. Reducing the waste we produce, recycling and composting as much as possible, then landfilling the last 10% calls for regional, state and even national actions.
Steps are already being taken at the regional level to help create regional markets for recycled materials and compost. As outlined in the zero waste plan, we must report to new job-creating businesses that use recycled materials.
We have enough raw materials. Regional efforts to ensure the collection of recycled materials are necessary to ensure that we can meet their demand.
The state must also send the right signals that fully support waste reduction, recycling and composting. Hats off to our state conservation agency, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), for supporting recycling and education programs.
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ban ban bans
State policies can better support Tennessee communities that want to reduce waste going to landfills. For starters, the state legislature should strike down the law it passed and signed into law by Governor Lee in 2019 that prohibited local governments from regulating certain plastic bags and utensils.
If Davidson, Rutherford, or any other county wanted to ban hard-to-recycle plastics, they can’t. Instead, most of these plastics end up in Middle Point or other landfills in Tennessee and elsewhere. It is a useless and harmful law; it must be eliminated.
A statewide bottle bill would also reduce the amount we landfill with the added benefit of reducing roadside litter. Presented at almost every legislative session since the early 2000s, it has never been adopted. If rural lawmakers don’t want garbage from outside their area, a bottle bill is a big step forward.
All residents of Davidson County and I have the opportunity to be a good neighbor to our fellow Tennessees. We know what to do. Now we must act individually and above all collectively through our local and state governments.
It’s about fairness and responsibility to ourselves, our neighbors, and future Tennessees.
John Sherman is Chairman of the Davidson County Solid Waste Area Council.