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City stops cardboard recycling
city suspends cardboard collection.jpg
Orange dumpsters will likely be a thing of the past in the near future. Due to the negative state of the recycling market and people’s tendency to contaminate the containers with other trash besides cardboard, the city of McMinnville has suspended its cardboard recycling efforts. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

The city of McMinnville has suspended its cardboard recycling efforts. 

Currently there are 84 large cardboard dumpsters throughout the city. They are provided free of charge to businesses specifically for cardboard disposal. 

“We are picking up cardboard,” said Frank Southard, interim director of the city’s Public Works Department. “But, right now, we are paying for it to go into the landfill. We’re not recycling it. They’re not taking our cardboard anymore in Tullahoma.”

Market conditions and contamination were cited for the decline in cardboard acceptance by recyclers. 

“I think the last time we did take some cardboard off, we more or less broke even,” said Southard. “These cardboard dumpsters are sitting out in the public, most of them. People throw cardboard, trash and everything else in them. They’ve been charging us to separate the trash from the cardboard because it’s contaminated.”

The update was given to members of the city Streets and Sanitation Committee. 

Southard suggested cardboard collection be suspended and those dumpsters removed. 

“I think we need to pull the dumpsters until further notice. Some people will probably want extra dumpsters because they’ll have to throw away their cardboard. An extra dumpster is $115 a month, so that’s going to build some revenue. Some probably won’t request an extra dumpster because the one they do have isn’t filled to capacity.” 

It costs the city between $750 and $950 a month in landfill tipping fees for the cardboard. That cost does not include the labor, fuel and handling by the city to empty the 84 dumpsters each week and transport the cardboard to the landfill. In the past, the cardboard would generate revenue when it was accepted for recycling, and that money offset the city’s expense. 

“We’re collecting no revenue from this service at this time,” said Southard. “If more dumpsters are requested, that’s at least a little revenue for the city.” 

Alderman Rachel Kirby stated, “This is very disappointing.” 

“I don’t know what else to do,” said Alderman Steve Harvey. “I make a motion that we take the advice and suspend the service for now.”

Kirby stated, “I second that sad motion.”

The motion was unanimously approved by Kirby, Harvey and Alderman Mike Neal.