The Murfreesboro City Council voted last Thursday to unanimously approve conducting a $55,000 economic viability study to decide if alternative waste solutions would be a feasible choice should the Middle Point Landfill close.

Assistant City Manager Darren Gore said the idea behind this proposal is to “determine at what point does waste fuel or waste energy make sense.”

At this point, the city currently anticipates that Middle Point will reach its maximum capacity within the next five to six years.

Gore said that when this closure takes place, other landfills in the state are likely to see a greater volume of trash coming their way, which will in turn result in higher disposal, or tipping fees. More trash could also mean that projected full capacity dates for these landfills will be pushed forward.

The study is to be conducted by Grigg’s Maloney, Inc., a Murfreesboro-based consulting firm, in conjunction with WastAway Services, a Morrison, Tennessee-based company that turns waste into energy.

Gore said the company can take 90 percent of a city or municipality’s raw solid waste and sterilize it so it may be used as a biofuel source. The remaining 10 percent of garbage is the only portion that would make it to the landfill.

The biofuel, also referred to as “refuse-derived fuel,” is an energy source that is comparable to coal or wood, according to Gore, who said the process would cause no additional issues with odor due to the sterilization involved.

The study to be conducted will consider the standards set by Middle Tennessee Electric and the Tennessee Valley Authority regarding electrical sales in addition to looking for potential buyers for the created fuel.

Gore presented a series of numbers to the council that showcased the cost of transporting trash to other landfills, including tipping and hauling distance fees.

The city now spends about $6.9 million in solid waste expenses each year. This number is estimated to jump up to $11.6 million when Middle Point eventually closes.

“It’s not a very sustainable solution to continue to landfill and then go farther and farther away to find more landfills,” said Gore, who referenced the Tennessee Solid Waste Plan’s projection for all state landfills to hit capacity by 2035. “This just really puts more control on our side.”

Councilman Bill Shacklett asked why this process isn’t being used all over now, and Gore cited current existing space in landfills as well as the manageable tipping fees as the reason.

All council members voted in favor of conducting the study in addition to a separate task order to test biosolid thermal dryers before moving to full-implementation.

Councilman Rick LaLance provided an update on the status of the Community Investment Citizens Advisory Committee that has been working to make a decision on a spending plan that will go to the state legislature for approval in the future.

LaLance agreed to provide a first draft of the committee’s plans for discussion at the council’s next workshop meeting on Wednesday, July 14 at Mayor Shane McFarland’s request.

The council and city staff also recognized former Finance Director, City Treasurer and City Recorder Melissa Wright for her many years of service to the city.

Wright also acted as the city’s chief accountant from 1993 to 2008 before transitioning into her finance director role.

She was asked to call her final roll call vote to adjourn the meeting.

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