The Rutherford County government continues to study options for solid waste disposal and has spoken with different companies that recycle or repurpose waste for other uses, with a plan possibly being presented to a committee within two months.

The latest discussion was last Tuesday during the Public Works & Planning Committee meeting. Jon Cozens, managing director of Fulcrum Bioenergy, pitched his company’s plans to turn waste into jet fuel.

At the same meeting, County Mayor Bill Ketron said he plans to present a proposal to the committee in October or November about how he believes solid waste should be handled with the approaching closure of Middle Point Landfill.

“We can’t keep kicking the can down the road,” Ketron said.

County staff told the committee that the Rutherford County Landfill is open so rarely and takes so few items that it costs a lot to keep open. The Rutherford County Landfill, which is operated by the county, will continue to accept only brush and off-the-rim tires, according to the county website. (This is a separate landfill from Middle Point, which Republic Services operates.)

Last fall, Ketron led city and county officials on a tour of Sevier Solid Waste Composting in Sevier County, the largest mixed solid waste compost facility in the nation.

During the Public Works meeting, during a discussion of composting and other options, Vice Chairman Steve Pearcy asked Ketron about touring a waste transfer station. Ketron said he studied such a system in Coffee County, which is different than the one Murfreesboro is studying, because the city picks up curbside garbage, while the Coffee County station accepts waste from several counties. That waste is then placed on trucks to be disposed of in Cleveland, Tenn., Ketron said.

Representatives from Republic Services were at the meeting and said Pearcy was welcome to tour their transfer station in Nashville.

Republic’s staff sat next to the staff from Fulcrum, which presented its concept. Fulcrum is building its first facility, Sierra BioFuels Plant, in Nevada, and it is in the advanced planning stages for sites in the United Kingdom, Chicago and Australia, according to Cozens. Several other plants are being considered as well.

To operate its future plans, Fulcrum plans to take waste from companies like Republic and process the waste to convert it into jet fuel that would be sold to airlines and the Department of Defense, Cozens said. Airlines are interested because they can claim environmental credit for using such fuel, which would cut greenhouse gases.

Fulcrum has contracts to sell to companies like United Airlines, BP, Cathay Pacific and Marathon, according to his presentation.

If Fulcrum had a local operation, it would need two sites: one of about 20 acres for an operation similar to a transfer station, where trash is shredded, and a site of about 50 acres for a refinery, Cozens said. Small amounts of fuel are stored at the refinery before being shipped out to California, he said.

The system would divert 50 percent of waste away from the landfill, Cozens said. The county could even keep its arrangement with Republic, he said.

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