Johnson City Mayor speaks on the diminishing of recycling opportunities

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Stricter recycling guidelines have some Johnson City residents concerned. 

Some items that have been excluded from Johnson City recycling include butter and yogurt bowls, plastic wrap, motor oil, and antifreeze containers. 

Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock says that the reasons for these changes are because of the lack in the market for plastics. 

“There are some years where our recycling, we actually made some money off of it, but in most years we have not and we had subsidized our recycling program. The market for plastics, which was being sent to China, has closed,” said Brock

Mayor Brock went on to say that finding a market in the United States to recycle those plastics has been difficult to find and could actually cost the city. 

“Our staff actually came to this city commission a few weeks ago and said because there’s no market for plastics, we’re suggesting to stop picking up at curbside plastics,” Brock said.

The mayor says that was a difficult decision to make. 

Tom Collins is a Washington County resident who works in Johnson City and drops off his recycled materials on his way home from work. He says the company he works for usually sends extra cardboard and paper that is sometimes not needed and he rather it be recycled then go to a landfill. 

“It keeps the landfills from getting filled up,” he adds. 

Recycling is important to Collins because he worked at a metal recycling plant for four years. 

“China had been buying a lot of our recycled steel [and] aluminum over the years. I did run a recycling center out in Grey. I do know how important it is. If we got a buyer on our recycle products and if it’s now going to be on plastics and paper you’re going to see a backup in all this stuff.”

Mayor Brock says this is bigger than a city problem and she hopes to see a change in legislation when it comes to recycling. 

“It’s really sad where we are right now when we think about recycling. Right now in the General Assembly, there is legislation that would disallow any municipality or county from setting its own regulation over plastic. If you don’t like that, pick your phones up tomorrow and call your legislators,” she says. 

Johnson City was the first city in Tennessee to start curbside recycling in 1985.

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