Currently, the program is in a pilot state with suggestions aimed at disbanding the pilot and program entirely or creating a full-time program in some capacity.
The program started with around 140 customers and currently has more than 400 customers. However, participation remains sporadic throughout the city, with some wards at double and triple the number of participants than in other wards.
Sarah Haston, Lebanon economic development director, created a social media survey about the program to complement an email survey created by Lebanon Public Works Director Jeff Baines.
On Monday, the group discussed the survey, which included five questions about residents’ current and future preference for the program.
More than 550 residents responded to the survey, with 385 of those responders identifying as recycling customers, while 159 said they were interested in the program and 19 responded they had no interest in the program.
When asked if they expected a curbside recycling program with the city’s sanitation program, 548 responders said they did. Similarly, 392 responders said they were willing to pay for the service, while 133 responders said they would dependent on the cost of the program.
The city’s recycling program currently costs $15, which 312 responders said they were willing to pay, and 104 responders said they were willing to pay $20, while 96 said they willing to pay nothing and 50 said they would pay $25.
When asked about a combined sanitation and recycling fee, 246 said they were willing to pay an $18 sanitation fee, which would be reduced to $12 if they recycled, while 175 said they would pay a $20 sanitation fee, reduced to $15 if they recycled. Nearly 75 participants said they were unwilling to pay a combined fee, and 69 responders said they were willing to pay a $22 combined fee, reduced to $17 for those who recycle.
Baines also presented a recommendation to the council to make the pilot program permanent.
The recommendation included the addition of one driver position, sanitation truck and movement of one position to recycling.
The cost of the full-time program after customer fees is estimated at $34,500 annually.
The Lebanon Sanitation Department picked up the single-stream recycling service after local business Green Monster decided to close its doors in May 2016.
With around 140 customers left wondering where to put their paper, cardboard, plastic and metal items, the council passed a resolution to create a 90-day pilot for the recycling program.
Green Monster left its 64-gallon carts for the city to use, and sanitation workers make rounds every other Monday to pick up recyclables for delivery to the Waste Management recycling warehouse in Nashville. For a time, the program operated at a loss to the city due to the cost of paying workers overtime and vehicle expenses. Though there can be payout with some recyclables, not all bring in money.
A second resolution was passed in November 2016 to give the Public Works recycling team a bit more time to make the program viable, and with a steadily growing number of customers, the program neared a break-even point.
The pilot program changed pickup days in January from every Monday to every other Monday to give the program some room to grow. Stormwater coordinator Liana Dranes, GIS manager R.T. Baldwin and Baines worked for months to get the word out to the community about the program through school programs, email blasts and more.
Democrat staff writer Jacob Smith contributed to this report.