MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — The landfill that receives most of Middle Tennessee’s trash is running out of space, but leaders in Rutherford County have made moves to change that.
On Thursday night, Murfreesboro voted to design a transfer station for waste with plans of converting that to a waste energy facility with WastAway. Therefore, they are making a long-term plan to stop relying on Middle Point Landfill as the destination for their, and the majority of the rest of Middle Tennessee’s, trash.
“We need something else besides Murfreesboro, Middle Tennessee being the dumping ground for the rest of the state,” said Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland. “I think everyone has realized that Middle Point is not the solution for our future.”
McFarland said their goal is to have a viable alternative to the landfill in place by 2026 or 2027.
He said the plan is to sort trash at an enclosed transfer facility and then take it to the WastAway facility on the same property to turn municipal solid waste into reusable fuel.
In a statement regarding the city’s vote Republic Services, which owns Middle Point, asserted they were an environmentally friendly option that also cares about the community.
“Middle Point Landfill is the most viable, proven low-cost waste solution for Rutherford County. We pride ourselves on being a good neighbor and the recent substantial investments demonstrate our long-term commitment to the community. We look forward to providing industry-leading waste disposal that is environmentally safe and free for Rutherford County residents for years to come,” wrote a spokesperson in an email to News 2.
Republic Services and the City of Murfreesboro have had legal back-and-forths in recent months. In addition, the city has not approved Republic’s requests for more landfill space because of estimates that the landfill will be full in the next few years.
“The Middle Point opening or closing is a moving target,” McFarland said.
The Mayor also expressed that while he has no issues with the way other municipalities have handled their waste, he has needed to be more proactive than other local leaders on the issue.
“There really hasn’t been a huge urgency to be able to solve that issue because we are the ones doing it and that is nothing against my other colleagues, but there has been much more of a dire need to figure out what is next,” he said.
For this project, he will be partnering with neighboring municipalities; however, for other regions in Tennessee, his suggestion is they also take steps to “modernize” their approach to waste management beyond just landfills.
“It would be like going to the doctor and asking them to use an operating room from the 1950s as opposed to the 2020s,” McFarland said.
A spokesperson for Metro Nashville said that while some of the city’s trash does go to Middle Point, the contract they have goes until 2027 and is with Republic Services, not just Middle Point. Therefore, for the time being, Republic Services is in charge of figuring out where to take the city’s trash even if Middle Point reaches its capacity.