Councilman hauls recycling as city’s trash mess continues

Posted at 6:12 PM, Dec 24, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Council member Freddie O’Connell spent Christmas Eve and the last two days hauling recycling once he learned curbside pickup had stalled.

You could talk about finding solutions or you can make one yourself. O’Connell chose the latter.

It’s Christmas Eve and so you don’t expect to see elected officials working on the holidays, but O’Connell made an exception for exceptional circumstances.

Red River Waste Solutions has already told the city they just can’t keep up with 21 routes and 14 or fewer trucks. Mayor John Cooper posted online that the contractor which services 73 percent of Nashville, “has failed us.”

The mayor offered his statement on Twitter saying he was frustrated with what happened and “as Mayor and a resident, I share your frustration over the problem of collecting the garbage.”

Metro’s answer was to divert staff and trucks away from curbside recycling to bridge the gap in service. That means no curbside recycling pickup. At least not by who you expect.

“Just in time for Christmas, we say sorry everybody no recycling? That just doesn’t make sense to me. So I got time,” O’Connell said.

He’s rented vans and borrowed trucks to do the work. Sometimes he gets help, but often it’s just himself making the difference for those who can’t make the trip for themselves.

“We’ve got people who are traveling. We’ve got older people. We’ve got people who might not have reliable access to a car,” O’Connell said.

The Metro Water Services department hopes to resume the service in late January or early February 2022. For now, you’re welcome to drop off recycling at any one of Nashville’s recycling centers or mobile locations.

Click on this link for details.

In the meantime, O’Connell says he’s reached out to groups like Hands on Nashville to find creative ways of solving what will likely end up in a recycling backlog.

“If we take our recycling program offline that means the landfills fill up faster. When that happens, hauling trash is even more expensive than it already is,” O’Connell said.

He's asking anyone with spare time on their hands to look out for their neighbors, the way he has.

"An act of kindness, easing people's frustration and suffering. I mean those kinds of things just go a long way and for me it's just part of the job," O'Connell said.

Red River Waste Solutions is waiting on a decision from bankruptcy courts to help them keep business running after filing for bankruptcy in October. Nashville will have to wait for permission from the court until they can legally terminate their contract.