As recycling grows in popularity nationwide, some Loudon County businesses are trying to make the practice a little easier.
Some offer curbside recycling pickup, while others offer monetary incentives.
Tennessee Trash Service General Manager Kim Turner said the Lenoir City business is the only curbside recycling service in Loudon County, at a cost of $8 a month. Commingled recycling, which includes all recyclable materials with the exception of Styrofoam and batteries, is picked up every other week.
Turner said about 20 percent of the company's overall customer base recycles and about 15 percent of Loudon County customers utilize the service.
"I think the only reason there is probably a difference is that you have more people moving to Knox County from cities like Chicago, New York and places that are used to it," Turner said. "Their cities have made it mandatory, and they have to do it."
Anticipating a recycling mandate down the road, Turner said offering curbside recycling has many benefits for aesthetics and for business, even though it's the least profitable division for Tennessee Trash.
"But as it grows, it's like anything else," she said. "It will someday become profitable. ... Especially in Loudon County, the options aren't there. It's doing something that they wanted. A lot of people moved here from out of state, and it's something that they are used to doing, and they want to do it.
"Knoxville is kind of behind the time when it comes to garbage pickup and recycling just because we are so rural and the markets are not here for reselling recyclables, but at some point it's going to become mandatory," she said.
Tennessee Trash Service recycled 726 tons of material in 2012. With Lenoir City government recently terminating the Allenbrook subdivision pilot recycling program, Turner hopes more Loudon County residents will get on board.
Santek Waste Services does not offer residential recycling services. The company focuses on commercial and industrial recycling in Loudon County and manages the Matlock Bend Landfill.
Cheryl Dunson, executive vice president of marketing, said Santek formerly offered recycling at the landfill.
"I'm not going to say there was apathy in Loudon County," Dunson said. "It's just due to where we were located and the other (county convenience) centers that were easier to get to than the landfill."
State regulation requires the landfill to recycle tires, however, she said.
There is a cost associated with recycling, Dunson and Turner said.
"When you take into account the amount of material we were getting and the labor and the transportation to get it to market -- because at the time we were having to take our glass all the way to Atlanta -- it was costing us about $150 a ton to recycle," Dunson said of a similar recycling program in Bradley County. "We could put it in the landfill. That's not a great green initiative, but the landfill gate rate at that time was $33 a ton."
Turner said though customers pay $8 a month for curbside recycling, Tennessee Trash Service pays a large fee to dump the recyclables directly at RockTenn in Knoxville.
"It costs just as much to do that (recycling) as it does the trash, and we have to pay almost the same amount to dump it because we have to pay them to separate it. Anything they pick up there are no markets in Tennessee except for scrap metal," Turner said, adding transportation dampers profit. "Steel cans go to Alabama. Glass goes to Atlanta. Plastics go to North Carolina. It all has to be packaged properly and shipped out of state and all of that costs money.
"The good thing about recyclables is that they are fairly lightweight, so we're paying by the weight to dump them but they don't pack," she said.
Other recycling options are available in Loudon County, including scrap metal yards.
Turner said in the Tennessee market, scrap metal is the only recyclable with direct monetary incentive for customers. Tenalco, located at North Walnut Street in downtown Lenoir City, and Green's Recycling, located on Highway 321 near Eaton Crossroads, pay for recyclable nonferrous metals such as aluminum cans, copper, cast aluminum, wheel weights, steel and even larger items such as washers, dryers, lawn mowers and vehicles.
Lori Rodgers, administrative manager of the Lenoir City Tenalco location, said prices fluctuate. Tenalco is currently paying 55 cents per pound for cans and 11 cents per pound for steel. She said community involvement has grown in the four years the Lenoir City location has been in business.
"You're not getting money at convenience centers. They are getting paid for their junk or their stuff (here). We also take car batteries too. If you get right down to it, as far as the customer, it's about the money," Rodgers said as to why business has grown. "And for some people this is their income. It is their income, and we are very self-conscious about that."
Tenalco serves as a "middle man" to connect recyclables with buyers, Rogers said.
"We are kind of like a distribution center," Rodgers said. "It keeps other companies in business too. We depend on the customer and other companies depend on us.
All three women said recycling participation has grown in recent years. Turner attributes education as the reason for the growth.
"I think people are just aware," Turner said. "There is more education on TV.
There is more education in the newspapers. There is more education at schools. We've done several times to where we went to North Middle, and we went to Highland Park, and we've talked to kids about it. Kids know about recycling."
Like Turner, Rodgers anticipated more growth.
"A lot of the recycling process takes a lot of money to have the equipment to do it and do it right and safely," Rodgers said. "We just don't have the room to do large quantity. We gather it here and then we distribute it to larger facilities."