Julie Burns

Julie Burns

If you follow hot topics in Rutherford County, you’re aware of our future solid waste woes, as Middle Point landfill is rapidly reaching capacity.

It is embarrassing that Murfreesboro and our fast-growing county has waited so long to begin this discussion, and it is frustrating that our mayors and solid waste directors have not communicated more openly and regularly with the citizens about their views on this issue.

For example, even if you regularly attend or watch the televised meetings of the County Commission, County Public Works Committee or City Council, you haven’t heard – until the August Public Works meeting – that since 2017, the Greater Nashville Regional Council (GNRC) has been developing a master plan to approach handling solid waste in a cooperative regional manner. It formed a Solid Waste Directors’ Round Table in 2017, co-chaired by our county and city solid waste directors Mac Nolen and Joey Smith.

The roundtable consists of solid waste managers from numerous counties and municipalities, also industry leaders, and has been meeting monthly to begin to address this complex issue as we run out of landfill space across Tennessee.

They have worked to assess and monitor industry trends, components and quantity of waste streams, the recycling market, new technologies, and landfill capacity in the multi-county region. The GNRC plan supports a Zero Waste goal for the Middle Tennessee region, something Mayor Ketron has publicly supported.

There are 21 counties involved, and with the contributions of members from these locales, the GNRC has recently submitted a Master Solid Waste Plan for review by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

So why has this multiyear effort not been mentioned at the Commission meetings? You may recall that the Commission approved paying a quarter million for consultants to study the problem, resulting in a final recommendation to expand Middle Point, advice that the Commissioners rejected.

Why haven’t they shown interest in the plan being developed by the GNRC? Were they not aware of it or does Rutherford County truly want to “go it alone?” The cost of solid waste disposal is not insignificant, and a regional cooperative group could ease the burden by sharing the cost of equipment and efficiently coordinating logistics.

Imagine a multi-county cooperative agreement, managed by a non-political governing body similar to a utility cooperative, that could make decisions regarding transportation, siting of recycling and composting facilities, consumer education, and assist with resource sharing across county lines. For example, one county could host a large composting operation; there could be a variety of recycling centers processing glass, plastic, paper, construction waste, and other materials.

The plan is available online at: http://www.gnrc.org. Encourage your elected officials to read it.

Rutherford County residents are understandably weary of accepting garbage and its associated risks from numerous counties. We have been hopeful that our elected officials will be forward-looking in their response to this crisis. However, none of these leaders seem to be informed about the plan created by the GNRC. They have the responsibility to find long-term solutions designed to truly benefit current and future generations and communities.

Since we will be footing what will no doubt be a tremendous bill, to help assure the best possible results we deserve to be included in the decision-making process. That requires full disclosure and transparency on the part of our elected officials and department heads.

Julie Burns lives in Murfreesboro and is the president of the SOCM (Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment).

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