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Zero Waste Program Builds Towards A Sustainable Environment

Sustainable companies and programs, like the Zero Waste Program in Nashville, Tennessee, are seeking to reduce the amount of waste in landfills, educate people on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle, and also reduce the effects of carbon intensity and gas emissions by 2050. Zero Waste Program realizes how waste affects our environment and wanted to instill change by introducing the idea of #smartwaste, improving waste management, diverting certain types of material such as construction and demolition waste, and food waste, and increasing recycling options. 


The purpose of this essay will be to discuss the status of the Zero Waste Program and how they are educating people to commit to building a greener environment. 


“Tennessee landfills are filling up and are nearing capacity in middle Tennessee,” said Zero Waste Project Manager Jennifer Harrman. “It’s a 30-year plan. There are a few priorities that the plan has identified as waste going toward landfills. Those priorities are construction and demolition waste, food waste, and increasing options for recycling.”


The Zero Waste Program in Nashville set a deadline of 2050 to divert 90% of its waste in landfills, minimize waste generation, and lead Nashville towards a better future by developing effective waste management programs and promoting conservation through Metro Convenience Center Drop-offs.


Convenient Centers are an accessible way for residents to dispose of excess waste. In Davidson County, there are 14 Metro Recycling Drop-offs including four convenience centers that accept all recyclables, bulky items, and household trash that are not accepted in the curbside trash and recycling program. All locations are open for 24 hours with only a few exceptions.


“It's really important to me and my team that we are thorough in our research, working with community members and stakeholders to develop plans that make sense for Nashville residents,” said Harrman. “That is also why we are looking at pilot programs like the Food Scrap Pick-up Pilot.”


The Food Scrap Pick-up Pilot is a continuation of their current composting system where people in the Davidson County area can drop off their compost material such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, coffee grounds, pizza boxes, etc, to Metro Convenient Drop-Off Centers. This pilot program will now allow people to send in more materials, such as glass and 100% recyclable polypropylene - number 5 polypropylene tubs, directly from their homes. 


Along with the convenience centers, the government has the Nashville Waste and Recycling App that gives residents the ability to view their trash and recycling collection schedule, get pick-up day reminders, and provide accurate information on waste materials that can be recycled, composted, or disposed of. These resources will help lower the contamination rate down and have already reduced the contamination rate by 21.6%. 


For Example, the Zero Waste Program implemented a debris management review for construction and demolition projects in the permitting process which led legislation to require a diversion plan. Waste that is sent to landfills can cause greenhouse gasses, and in many cases, the C&D material still holds value as construction material or raw material that can be used for recycling. Nashville’s Construction & Demolition Recycling Guide guides construction and demolition commercial projects on how to reuse and recycle C&D material. This includes redesign, reuse, deconstruction, downcycling, and recycling to conserve our natural resources, prevent pollution, and save energy. An increase in recycling will lead to the development of new C&D processing facilities, making the material easier and more cost-effective.

In 2019, Sensoneo, a company that produces the Global Waste Generation Index, revealed how the United States of America was the number one waste-production country in the world and that New Zealand, Latvia, and Turkey, are the nations with the worst waste management systems. Afterward, Sensoneo published their 2022 comprehensive analysis stating that Turkey emerges as the largest waste-producing nation despite their recycling efforts of 47 kilograms of waste per capita, which recycling was not part of their plan before 2019. There is a total of 176 kilograms of waste per capita that is being disposed of in an uncontrolled manner in Turkey. 


To help prevent waste from ending up in landfills, nations are taking extra precautions such as the European Union adopting the single-use plastic ban and 17 out of the 38 countries switching to waste incineration as an alternative to landfilling. Sensoneo reiterates that even if a country has a good score in the index it doesn’t mean that the country’s waste management system doesn't need improvement and that they should keep finding ways to reduce waste.


“It is about the landfill capacity. That is one aspect of it,” said Harrman. “As those landfills fill up, we have started thinking about other options. But, also, the Zero Waste Master Plan takes a triple bottom line approach so that we are not only looking at the financial aspect but also how it impacts our community and how it impacts our environment.”


The Nashville Metropolitan Government leads the Zero Waste Program and is trying to get more people to commit to creating less waste and diverting tons of recyclable material from landfills.


“The mayor's office has a sustainability advisory committee that has incorporated priorities for zero waste into their climate actions and climate adaptation programs,” said Harman. “It sets a standard for sustainable waste solutions. We spent a lot of time doing what we could, doing that education work, so now we are really at a moment where we could start looking at larger scale strategy implementation.”

Moreover, each city provides a list of recyclable materials on its city website to inform residents of recycling habits to make the town greener to work, live, and play, and give facts about their recycling program. 


“There are so many reasons why this is important. That includes the financial costs of disposal going up and we need to find solutions around a local economy to stabilize costs into the future,” said Harman. “Additionally, reducing, reusing, and recycling material will reduce pollution, preserve our natural resources, and conserve energy, all for the greater benefit of our environment.”


Food waste is one of Nashville's priorities because it is one of the main contributors to methane gas and landfills. Their goal is to “create a local circular economy to keep materials in the region and reduce the carbon impact of transportation.”


In Conclusion, the Nashville Zero Waste Program is increasing its prevention methods to reduce, reuse, and recycle 90% of its material from landfills by 2050, educate people on their recycling options using the Nashville Waste and Recycling app, and stabilize costs for disposal in the future. 


Cover Image provided by Freepik.

Edited By: Whitney Edna Ibe

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