Trash talk: Memphis is upgrading its recycling system

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The city of Memphis is closing the lid on sorting your recyclables. Starting this summer, you'll see these bigger bins on the side of the road.

They can hold a lot more, and they require less work. Director of Public Works Dwan Gilliom says getting Memphians on board to recycle is a challenge.

"They don't like the idea of having to sort with the new 96 gallon container, all they have to do is just throw it in."

So it's out with the small and in with the big, thanks to the new single sort technology that does the sorting for you at a warehouse.

If you're wondering why all of this took so long, first re-community needed to invest in the single-sort system, which can take all the recycling at once. Then the city followed suit. It turns out going green cost a lot of green.

These new bins cost $44 a pop. The city needs 170,000 of them. That's few million bucks right there.

Then there's the new combo trucks that can handle trash and recycling at once. They're $200,000 each, and the city needs 70 of them.  That's $7 million.

The savings start by taking less trash to the landfill.

Right now the city spends $7 million a year hauling away your trash.

Gilliom expects that cost to go down, because there's more recycling.

Gilliom said, "So you don't have to turn over the plastic container and see what numbers on the bottom will take all plastics."

Plus the city makes money off your recycled goods.

So the more you put in here, the more money the city makes, and hopefully the less you pay in service fees.


  • TNcat

    We pay 22.80 a month on our utility bill for solid waste fee. So how many households pay that…170,000? If so that is I believe about $46.5 million a year. How many sanitation workers are there? What do they make? Inquiring tax paying minds would like to know.

  • Stephan

    The costs for waste removal and recycling could be greatly reduced if more people would recycle their kitchen- and garden waste at home. This can simply be done with the help of earthworms. I’ve done it for 15 years and it works like a bomb.
    A lot of household waste (all the organic materials ) can actually be recycled in worm bins at home. It’s easy, doesn’t produce any bad odors and can be done virtually anywhere.
    Amongst the many benefits it brings are a reduction in the production of harmful greenhouse gas “methane”, a regular supply of amazing organic fertilizer and natural pesticide and last but not least even the possibility of creating some extra income from home.
    It takes less than 5 minutes of maintenance for a worm farm per week and I can recycle up to 50% of my household and garden waste with the help of my worms.

    The start up costs are minimal and with less waste produced the costs for waste collection should get reduced as well.

  • Sarah

    Will the city’s 5 drop off centers also no longer require users/residence to sort? There are tens of thousands of Memphians who do not have access to curbside recycling – how will this change affect them?

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