Nothing demonstrates local governments’ spirit of cooperation better than our Solid Waste operation. Lawrenceburg and Lawrence County became partners in waste disposal over 20 years ago, creating a program that is unique in Tennessee.
Did I mention award-winning? Our Solid Waste program won the 2015 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award because it surpassed the state’s goal for recycling ten years early. The operation and facilities were cover stories in Tennessee Public Works magazine’s July/August 2007 and September/October 2013 issues.
Then last Friday, Lawrenceburg/Lawrence County Solid Waste Director Gary Wayne Hyde was named Director of the Year at the Tennessee Solid Waste Directors Association’s fall conference.
I am so proud of Gary Wayne and the operation he handles “with poise and grace,” as Lawrenceburg Mayor Blake Lay put it. Solid waste disposal is one of the most necessary services local governments provide, but it’s too easily taken for granted and way too easy to criticize. Gary Wayne is the heart and brains behind our successful program, and I am thrilled he’s been recognized for his work.
That work started on the back of a city garbage truck in the early 80s, when he was 18 and his dad supervised Lawrenceburg’s sanitation operation. Calvin Hyde retired in 2000 after a 35+ year career, and his son was still there, a veteran of every kind of dirty work the job could throw at him.
Gary Wayne presented an idea for improvement before he became the department head himself, Lay said. The men who literally picked up city residents’ household garbage were constantly injuring themselves. Gary Wayne told Lay the city should buy residential carts that could be emptied by a mechanism on the garbage trucks. “He said it would pay for itself in three years, and it did.”
The city has since purchased trucks that can lift and dump the carts, so the driver is the only employee required. It has also invested in new dumpsters and front-load trucks to lift and empty them, eliminating even more costs.
Lawrenceburg and Lawrence County formed its Solid Waste partnership when the state started requiring counties to have Solid Waste directors. We agreed to share equipment, facilities, and personnel, an arrangement that gets the job done and saves lots of money. Salary and benefit costs for the Director, Assistant Director, and Administrative Assistant are split 50/50; other employees there are employed by the city or county to manage each entity’s solid waste.
As Director, Gary Wayne oversees two closed garbage landfills and one demolition waste landfill, which are capped and monitored according to increasingly strict state guidelines. Lawrenceburg/Lawrence County got out of the garbage landfill business about two decades ago, and that’s when Solid Waste fees were instituted.
“The fee pays for transport and disposal of household garbage,” he explained. It’s all trucked to a landfill in Walnut, Mississippi, so the costs are considerable. Residents pay an additional fee for large items like mattresses because they take up extra room in those trucks and therefore cause additional expense. It’s worth noting that the county Solid Waste fee has remained the same for about 20 years, in spite of rising fuel and trucking costs.
Gary Wayne is recognized across the state as a leader in recycling. Early on he helped us win grant funds for a new baler, a “pick line” conveyor belt where a team of inmates sort recyclables, and the recycle drop-off buildings now located at county schools. While we are on the subject, I promise we are working to find a way to reinstate recycling drop-off points in our community.
Last year, Lawrence County recycled 77% of its waste, sorting and selling bales of #1 and #2 plastics, mixed paper, cardboard, scrap metal, and aluminum. The recyclable market goes up and down; right now prices for cardboard are somewhat improved. Cardboard is our biggest recyclable by volume, primarily thanks to a route Solid Waste employees run five days a week to pick up waste cardboard at 150 local commercial and industrial businesses. A grant provided the box truck used exclusively on that route.
Gary Wayne is also responsible for development of new demolition landfill pods at Wildcat Ridge. One of four is set to open soon to accept construction and demolition waste. Each pod is projected to meet our community’s needs for 25 years.
Finally, Gary Wayne oversees litter crews that go out most weekdays to pick up trash from Lawrence County’s roadsides. Some trouble spots require more attention than others – the most notable was a 20-ton haul from an illegal dump on White Bluff Road. Others measuring in tons have been cleaned up at Iron City and the Fall River/Revilo area.