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Project Nashville: Metro's zero waste plan calls for mandatory recycling and composting

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Project Nashville

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Nashville can't hide the traffic, the extra people or the construction, and it can only hide the exploding trash problem for so long.

It's why Megan Gill, a new Nashville transplant, is on a mission to get the city to stop throwing things away. Gill says, “It doesn't make sense to make a casket of the things we don't want or need.”

Gill’s 'aha' moment came as a hairstylist when she realized how many plastic bottles she threw away.

“As soon as I had the idea, it was like a switch flipped,” Gill said.

That's when 'The Good Fill' in east Nashville was born. It has face wash, body wash, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, dish soap, laundry detergent, and more.

“I was consumed with figuring out how to make sure people could learn about creating less waste,” Gill adds.

Open just a couple of months, guests refill their products in a reusable container. Customers pay by weight, minus the weight of their container.

“Getting away from the thinking that everything has to be a convenience for us,” Gill explains.

Gill's Good Fill is exactly the direction Metro Government is going with its trash problem. The city wants to manage trash as a resource instead of throwing it in the landfill in Rutherford County which only has eight years of space left, according to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Nashille's new zero waste master plan just drafted in July adopts proven practices from cities like San Francisco, which in an even bolder move, is even banning all plastic bottles from its airport.

Sharon Smith with Metro Public Works explains, “Sometimes it takes a potential impending crisis for people to think about, 'is that really what we want to do?’ “

The zero waste plan calls for mandatory recycling and composting for every business and everybody.

Gill says, “I started it knowing this is super necessary and somebody has to do this so that we can figure out as a society how to move away from single use and disposables.”

Metro's latest data shows that Nashville's throwing 82 percent of our trash in the landfill, only 12 percent recycle and only six percent compost.

“Looking at how we can increase recycling services for our own customers which is once a month and we're planning to go to every other week to make it more convenient,” Smith said.

Project Nashville learned the city could move to a 'save as a you throw' (SAYT) strategy where you pay less for trash service if you throw less away.

'The Good Fill' Customer Marisa Polowitz is on board explaining, “The world is not infinite in its capacity to deal with our damage. I think Nashville is putting a lot of effort into trying to figure out a way to do it right. I love this city for it.”

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City leaders say growth necessitates change and we all need to get ready. Nashville's zero waste plan spans 20 to 30 years and would need legislative as well as funding support.

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