Down in the Dumps: Where to reduce, reuse and recycle your unwanted items, locally

By Amanda Rose Curtis

Staff Writer

“Honey! Can you take the trash out?!” That’s something said in probably every household in Lewis County. However, the real question is: Can YOU take the trash out? I’m not talking about getting rid of a bad relationship (although, while you’re at it..). I’m not talking about tying up the plastic bag and taking it outside to the city trash can. But, can you actually take JUST the trash out, and salvage or recycle the rest?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, recycling is “the process of collecting and processing material that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products.” 

There is no federal law that mandates it, so recycling legislation is localized through city or state governments. Essentially, it is up to us to make sure our mess is cleaned up and that we aren’t stockpiling a giant eyesore of trash for the next generation to deal with.

The health inspector says only about 32 percent of total waste in the U.S. is recycled. The remainder ends up under ash in a dump yard.

In 2014, the country generated roughly 259 million tons of municipal solid waste. That’s a lot of junk! 

Do you give a second thought to what you’re placing in the trash can at your home every day? If not, you could. But, if you’ve never taken the time to consider the final destination of your household waste, it may be more of a task than you’re willing to take on if the research is not already done for you.

Well, you’re welcome, because I, too, would like to start taking the placement of the waste of mine into consideration.

Let’s start at home with the City garbage pickup. Once a week, you roll your trash receptacle out to the edge of your driveway for the staff of the Lewis County Solid Waste Department to dump in the back of the truck, and that is probably the last time you think about it. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s out of sight and out of mind; no longer your responsibility. 

But, where does this truck full of trash go? According to Solid Waste Director Tony Bailey, “Once this trash is picked up, it is taken to the dump where we compact it, load it onto a trailer, and it gets transported to Decatur County’s Class I Landfill.”

If you take time to separate it, the cardboard, plastic and paper could be used to make money for the city. Mr. Bailey explains, “As part of the Hub & Spoke Grant given to us through the State of Tennessee, we are able to sell our cardboard, plastics and paper to the Hickman County Solid Waste Department for so much money per weight.” Used batteries, motor oil, even electronics can be recycled at the Lewis County Solid Waste Department.

“Vendors will pick up these materials and pay the county for them, which generates revenue. While residents and businesses pay for garbage pickup, it is not enough to cover the enterprise fees. The funds made from the payment of the vendor pickup supplement the enterprise fees and help to keep those fees at the current rate, which hasn’t increased since 1994,” says Mr. Bailey.

At the Lewis County Solid Waste and Transfer Station, known locally as “the dump,” tires can also be recycled. Eight regular, semi and tractor tires a year can be accepted for free, and for a small fee per tire, more can be recycled if needed. 

Brush is also accepted there. It is burned, and the ashes are used to cover the demolition field.

There is another place in town that accepts your unwanted materials. So, just what is accepted at Clayton Family Recycling? According to Lucas Clayton, director of operations, they accept and purchase all scrap metals.

“We accept all metals, from aluminum beverage cans to old junk appliances and junk vehicles, and everything in between: aluminum, brass, copper, lead. There is a market, and we do pay for the recyclable materials we obtain. Just like everything else, prices vary, due to supply and demand of the stock market,” he continued.

When asked why he believes recycling is an important aspect of everyday life, he responded, “Just the recycling of aluminum cans saves 95 percent of the energy it would generally take to make the same amount of material from its original source. That’s reason enough to recycle, but there’s also the financial side of it. Recycling should be important due to the overflow of items that would be recycled that end up in a landfill, which is filling up quicker and quicker. Eventually, more land would have to be purchased by taxpayers to dump all the junk.”

Phenix McDonald, Lucas’ 10 year old nephew, could tell you everything you need to know about recycling. “He loves working there when he is out of school,” his mom, Mallory McDonald, says. “He even stores cans in his lunch box he finds on the playground, because he knows they add up and make money! And, he is constantly looking for scrap metal anytime we go anywhere. I’m definitely raising someone a hard working husband.”

If we would all adopt that ethic, the planet, or at least our county would be a much “greener” place to live.

So far, we’ve explored places to take paper, plastic, cardboard, brush, tires, oil and scrap metal. What about the glass? Unfortunately, in Hohenwald, there is nowhere to recycle those bottles. However, if you make a trip to or through Columbia at least once a month, you’re in luck. 

The Maury County Solid Waste Department on Lawson White Drive accepts glass. Their only stipulation is that it has to be separated, clear from colored.  Easy enough.

Now, what about that “stuff.” Yard sales are good and financially lucrative, because who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt. After all, one man’s trash really is another’s treasure, but a yard sale sure is hard work. And most of us are good for one per year; at OktoberFest.

 Goodwill is a good option, because the company helps low-income and unemployed heads of household find full-time work. It also provides work training assistance, homeless shelters and other temporary assistance to impoverished families. However, Goodwill is not a local company serving Hohenwald citizens. 

The Lewis County Food Bank is, though. The community volunteer-based non-profit has been serving Lewis County since the early 1940s. Governed by the Lewis County Ministerial Association, Co-directors, Brenda Cox and Ann English currently run the daily operations. 

“We recycle into the community to help it’s citizens,” says Brenda. “Everything is donated to us: Clothing, furniture, household and yard items, even in-date food,” she goes on to explain. “Folks come out here and shop, yard sale style. All the sales are profit, and that money goes into the Food Pantry. The Pantry is income-based and helps about 125 families each month, with most of them having five or six members.”

“We purchase food locally, through Powers, Save-a-Lot and Walmart, so everything we do here is funneled through our community,” Brenda explained. “What comes in, goes out and comes back in, and so on.”

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the guys from Buffalo Valley help with the heavy lifting. “They are such a blessing to us,” says volunteer, Roni Gilbert. Payment for their strength and time consists of clothing and shoes they get to choose from the store at the end of the shift. 

If you aren’t able to find time to make it to the food bank during their open hours, there’s another option. 

Sitting outside of Powers Foodtown is the AMVETS box. It’s big, blue and sits beside the Sundrop machine. You can drop off small items and bags of clothing at the collection center there to help support the Veterans of this great country. Also, for free large item and home pick up service, you can call 615-860-2240 or visit

Couches, cardboard, metals and even brush: now you know where to take your “stuff!” Reduce clutter and energy by reusing items to make something new or recycling to make something..well, new!

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