published Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Bradley County recycling nears anniversary

By Paul Leach


• The average household generates 42 pounds of PET plastic bottles per year.

• Recycling a ton of PET containers saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space.

• The average person uses 13.55 pounds of HDPE plastic bottles per year.

• HDPE is not biodegradable in landfills.

Sources: National Association for PET Container Resources,,


• PET (polyethylene terephthalate)

Examples: water and soda bottles

• HDPE (high-density polyethylene)

Examples: liquid detergent bottles, milk jugs

CLEVELAND, Tenn.—Bradley County’s renewed plastic recycling program will mark its first anniversary in May.

Even before it’s a year old, the program has collected nearly 15 tons of plastic bottles, the county mayor’s executive assistant said.

“It was the No. 1 request in the mayor’s office in regards to recycling,” Dan Howell said.

Santek Environmental Inc., which handles the county’s landfill, delivers about a ton of plastic bottles and jugs to the Orange Grove Recycling Center in Chattanooga each month, according to Cheryl Dunson, vice president of marketing.

“It has been a successful thing,” Dunson said. “People are taking ownership [of the program].”

Howell praised the program for saving landfill space and for supporting the efforts of Orange Grove Center.

“Recycling certainly pays dividends,” he said, noting that extending the landfill’s life will save taxpayer dollars.

The county collects plastic bottles at its recycling centers at Peerless Road and Urbane Road.

Each center has receptacles for No. 1 PET (polyethylene terephthalate) products, such as water and soda bottles, and No. 2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene) items such as milk jugs and liquid detergent bottles.

Each month’s collection is split pretty evenly between the two types of plastics, Dunson said.

“It keeps us pretty busy, and it’s a win-win situation for the county,” said Steve Melton, manager of the Bradley County recycling centers.

He estimated that each center’s plastic bottle collection needed to be hauled off once every week and a half. Other recyclable materials, such as aluminum cans, glass and paper, often required removal at least once a week, he said.

Plastics constitute more than 12 percent of the nation’s municipal solid waste stream, with bottles and other containers making up the largest category, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Although the overall recycling rate for plastic waste was only 7 percent in 2009, the recycle rates for No. 1 PET and No. 2 HDPE bottles were 28 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at

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