State legislation seeks to improve recycling, create jobs, solve regional solid waste crisis

Published 4:45 pm Thursday, January 18, 2024

As Tennessee landfills are reaching their limits, a new nationwide report ranks Tennessee as 48th in overall recycling of packaging and other materials. The “50 States of Recycling” report was released in December by Eunomia Research & Consulting and Ball Corporation, providing a state-by-state, comprehensive assessment of common packaging materials using data on generation, recycling, and disposal rates from across all 50 US States.
State legislation is being considered by lawmakers to improve recycling and ease Tennessee’s landfill crisis. The Tennessee Waste Reduction and Recycling Act (SB0573/HB0550) was introduced by State Senator Heidi Campbell to reduce litter, reduce the strain on local landfills, increase recycling, and create local jobs in Tennessee. The bill will establish a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) to implement strategies to increase recycling and reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in our landfills or as litter in Tennessee communities. The PRO includes those who created the packaging as part of the solution.
“We urgently need to solve Tennessee’s trash and litter crisis,” says Jeffrey Barrie, CEO of Tennessee Environmental Council. “We fully support this legislation that promises to create local jobs in Tennessee’s recycling sector while tackling our dwindling landfill space head-on,” says Barrie.
Approximately $162 million worth of recyclable materials are being buried in Tennessee landfills every year, according to the “50 States of Recycling” report. Recycling those materials would add up to 7,700 jobs and add up to $420 million annually in additional wages for Tennesseans, according to the report.
“This report confirms that this legislation presents a golden opportunity for Tennessee to emerge as a leader in recycling and advance economic development for products, businesses, and industries for recycled products,” says Dan Firth with the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club. “My hope is that our General Assembly will pass this bill so we can get to work and turn our trash into treasure,” says Firth.

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