JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — The end of curbside recycling in Jonesborough is a precursor to other towns in the region, warns Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest.
The town notified residents by letter Nov. 1 of the end of curbside recycling pick-up. The letter references damage to the recycling center, but Vest said there’s another factor.
“The market to sell recyclables has really collapsed,” Vest said. “It’s not a cheap program, and if you can’t resell your recyclables, this is unfortunately the position we find ourselves in.”
Vest said the re-sale market has struggled since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recycled materials are often sold by municipalities to be processed. In 2022, the letter states the Town of Jonesborough was able to sell cardboard for $150 per ton, but at the time of reporting, the town could only get $25 per ton. Tennessee law requires municipalities to make a profit in order to offer recycling as a service.
Vest said Jonesborough’s recycling could become a more prevalent problem in other areas.
“I’m sure other municipalities the size of Jonesborough [are] going to struggle with that,” Vest said. “Because you either raise your rates a healthy amount or you’ve got to cut their expenses, and we’re choosing to cut their expenses.”
Vest referenced the City of Kingsport’s decision to officially end its curbside recycling earlier this year after halting it during the pandemic.
The decision to stop recycling in Jonesborough was not easy, Vest told News Channel 11. He said Jonesborough residents have enjoyed the option of recycling for decades.
“It’s disappointing for the board to have to do this, but sometimes you have to make these financial decisions, and hopefully in the near future, the market will change and we can continue curbside again,” Vest said.
The town’s recycling center was reportedly damaged during a wind storm, but it will be repaired. Vest said insurance money only covers half of the cost of repairing it.
Vest said two convenience centers will be built in the town for recyclables to be dropped off. Town leaders hope a company will collect and process those recyclables.
Curbside bin collection begins this week.