Written by Vann Turner, of BBJ Group's Nashville Office
Metro Nashville, in the Tennessee area, is one of the fasting growing metropolitan centers in the United States. According to the Nashville Chamber, the net annual migration to the city doubled from 12,338 residents per year in 2011 to 27,777 residents in 2020. This equated to approximately 76 new residents moving to Nashville every day.
The influx of people moving to Music City has presented some unique challenges to local developers. Large-scale developments frequently result in building demolitions that create construction and demolition (C&D) wastes that require landfill disposal. The increase in C&D-related debris, and the increasing volume of regular residential waste, have added strain to landfill space demands. C&D wastes include bricks, concrete, other masonry materials, soil, rock and lumber, road spoils, rebar, and paving material. C&D wastes are especially prevalent from developments within the urban area core, where decades-old buildings are demolished and high-density residential and mixed-use developments replace them.
For years, the Southern Services Landfill within metro Nashville – specifically designed and permitted to receive C&D wastes – has taken the C&D debris from the Nashville Metropolitan area. Nashville’s rapid Growth has resulted in accelerated landfill waste disposal and the expedited requirement to close Nashville’s only C&D landfill. The Southern Services Landfill is expected to reach capacity by the year 2025.
So, what’s the problem?
Recently, Waste Management, the owner of the Southern Services landfill, notified its external customers that it would no longer accept C&D wastes to prolong the life expectancy of that landfill. This recent decision to close the landfill and the near-term requirement to permanently close will significantly impact local development costs.
Without a local C&D landfill alternative, developers will be forced to transport wastes many miles from the Metro area to other landfills. Plus, developers may be forced to dispose of less toxic C&D wastes at municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills – landfills designed to contain much more toxic and variable wastes and with higher tipping fees (disposal costs). Those MSW landfills also have their own short-term capacity and life expectancy demands without future expansions.
Private waste haulers will have to begin transporting C&D waste to landfills further away, increasing the expenses associated with disposal. Approximately 150-200 trucks daily will be diverted to transfer stations used by all MSW waste. This increase in C&D truck traffic will result in project delays, higher development costs, and increased greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion. More C&D wastes in MSW landfills will also shorten their life expectancies.
How do we fix this?
To combat this growing problem, Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County created the Solid Waste Master Plan Task Force to create the Solid Waste Master Plan - a roadmap for the future of solid waste for Nashville and the surrounding region. This plan, which started in 2017, aims to minimize waste generation and maximize the diversion of materials from landfills by implementing and encouraging sustainable practices regarding solid waste management. The primary goal of this 30-year plan is: “Zero Waste.” The Solid Waste Master Plan defines “Zero Waste” as a 90% diversion from landfill disposal, and here are ways it aims to accomplish that:
Implement recycling and recovery programs aimed at Nashville’s increasing C&D debris.
Design and build a dedicated C&D landfill for Nashville.
Even if Waste Management is successful in receiving an expansion of the Southern Services Landfill, expanding that landfill is only kicking the can further down the road. To check the continued increase of C&D waste, the Nashville area needs to amend its policies to match more successful programs implemented in other parts of the nation. C&D waste diversion and recycling programs have become common elsewhere.
The expedited closure of the Southern Services landfill provides a good example and lesson for other municipalities across the United States. Growth results in increased waste generation, and without a viable long-term plan, developers and the eventual buyers of developed properties will only see costs and purchase prices rise even more in the future.