Dec 22, 2021 - News

Curbside recycling on hold amid trash saga

A Red River Waste Solutions truck in a suburban Nashville neighborhood.

A Red River Waste Solutions truck. Photo: Nate Rau/Axios

Nashville residents won't have curbside recycling service through the end of January as Metro deals with the fallout of its trash contractor navigating bankruptcy.

  • Since Red River Waste Solutions has not been able to handle all of its existing trash routes, the city has been forced to pick up the slack with its own recycling trucks.
  • Delays have reached the point where Metro says it can no longer handle both its regular recycling obligations and Red River's additional routes.

Why it matters: Because Red River filed for bankruptcy in October, the company is entitled to protections that prevent the city from merely severing its contract, city attorney Lora Fox tells Axios.

  • Fox says Metro's contract with Red River must be either "assumed" or "rejected" by the bankruptcy court.
  • If assumed, the city will receive assurances that the terms of the contract will be met. If rejected, Metro can look for a new garbage collector, Fox says.
  • Red River did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

What he's saying: Metro Councilmember Jeff Syracuse expressed frustration with the situation. He sponsored a resolution last year asking the city to look into severing its contract with Red River after a string of trash pickup interruptions in his Donelson-area district.

  • Syracuse says the situation is "untenable" and wants immediate action from Mayor John Cooper's administration.

Zoom out: The issue is not unique to Nashville. Cities across the country are seeing an increase in residents throwing away trash, while supply chain issues and driver shortages make it difficult for contractors to keep up.

  • Locally, recovery from the recent tornadoes has sapped potential contractors' ability to take on more work.

The bottom line: A spokesperson for Cooper says that all possible options continue to be explored, within the constraints of the bankruptcy process.

  • Metro's goal is to resume curbside recycling by late January or early February. Residents are encouraged to drop off recycling at recycling convenience centers in the meantime.

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