Core Issues

BURNT’s core issues reflect a holistic approach to environmental justice in Tennessee, covering diverse yet interrelated topics. Our main concerns have to do with solid waste management (which includes discussion of landfills, composting and recycling), chemical and pesticide use, and water pollution.

For more specific information on any of these topics, check out their individual pages:

You can also browse blog entries about all of our core issues below:

Letter to State Board re: Solid Waste Act

The 1991 Solid Waste Act was launched with a formal, public three year planning effort defined by  the 1988 Solid Waste Act.  The resulting 1991 Solid Waste Act is 25 years old. It has fostered more landfilling than recycling and composting.   Problems include local and state tabulation of solid waste, poor definition of what is solid waste and what is recyclable, and apparent low rates of recycling.   Page references in the letter are to the 2015-2025 State Solid Waste Plan…..LINK:   2015-2025 Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan Please find attached a letter from BURNT to Stacy Cothran, Chair of  the State of the Tennessee Underground Storage Tanks and Solid Waste Control Board. >pg   2-3,4,5    Waste Stream numbers and that US EPA has a completely different scale to measure solid waste and recycling;     >pg. 3, Summary of Tennessee waste reporting problems.   >pg. 5–8 Detailed exam of local solid waste reporting.  By law individual businesses can refuse to report   >pg. 8–11– Tennessee proposes to turn control of solid waste reporting and regulating to local governments which have refused a more active role and overtly support landfills as the most expedient solution to solid waste  >pg. 12-15       Waste Diversion and Class III/IV Landfills–Tennessee landfills construction waste  >pg. 15-18       Recycling and Conclusion NOTE     Edits and Corrections, pg. 19 This legislation has not worked.  Twenty five years after passage and Tennessee is the only state which gives credit for landfilling construction waste which can often be recycled (see page 14, Class III/IV landfills)   Read the letter above then go to the 2015-2025 State Solid Waste Plan to understand  how we arrived at the point where the...

Flyer to Metro Council, 2016

Please find attached two flyers for the Metro Nashville Council.  We had multiple issues–a proposed $250,000 solid waste study BURNT did not want as long as the chair of the Regional Board remained for the study; Nashville recycling is hurt by Tennessee pro-landfill policy;  that Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) 68-211-871(c)(d) allows any commercial, institutional,  and commercial business to withhold a annual solid waste report; TCA 68-211-861 authorizes Tennessee to be the only state to give a credit for landfilled construction waste; and that the 2007 Solid Waste Plan was not implemented   Nashville is the 2nd largest county in the state.  Our Council has intelligent, capable people.  We  want to work to keep them informed of all points of view.  MC3May2016.1...

BURNT Event: “Can Nashville Recycle More?”

On Tuesday November 17 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Richland Park Library 4711 Charlotte BURNT will sponsor a presentation and discussion on “Can Nashville Recycle More?”  BURNT will explain what is in solid waste and why more waste can be recycled and composted.  The relationship between state solid waste law and metro practices will be considered.  The factors evident in Oregon and California, two high recycling state, will be discussed to see how to improve Nashville recycling. The event is free and open to the public. See the flyer below....

TDEC Develops Solid Waste Plan 2015-2025

The Division of Solid Waste recently unveiled their Solid Waste Plan 2015-2025 (available here). The new Plan embraced all the elements of the past with vague promises for change.  Tennessee will remain the only state to credit landfilled construction waste as diverted, wildly inaccurate local reports will be expanded, and emphasis on rural waste will remain instead of larger counties which create the majority of solid waste.  Sometime in the future, regulations for landfills will be reviewed even though there are amply regulations now to control landfill pollution. Below is a letter to a State Solid Waste Board member then a longer letter to the Commissioner. “11 April 2015 Alan Leiserson, Member Underground Storage Tanks and Solid Waste Control Board You and I have a unique view on the Solid Waste Plan 2015-2025.  We testified before a Joint Government Operations Rule Committee in December 2011 where the Plan was a central point.  The Committee could not understand how I could oppose a TDEC Planning  effort. This Plan perfectly expresses that opposition. This Plan does nothing except continue the present status of Tennessee solid waste.  There is nothing but vague promises for future change.  The loop-hole riddled  local reporting where local governments report only on what they personally collect and guess on the rest, the unique  to Tennessee rule of allowing landfilled construction waste to count as diverted which inflates Tennessee recycling numbers, and the polluting landfills are ignored. The Department states that only complaints from local citizens will trigger remediation of landfills even though Tennessee is ranked 44th among all states in well being which reflects education, citizen participation, job opportunities,...

BURNT Fails At General Assembly To Connect Air Quality to Landfills

BURNT  does a lot of work at the General Assembly which is not related to specific legislation.  Over the years,we have helped educate the legislature on problems of solid waste and landfills.  For this hearing of the Joint Government Operations Rule Committee we tried to link the refusal of the State Air Quality Board and Air Quality Department to consider odors.  Of course, this is quite strange behavior for an Air Quality Board–how can a State Air Quality Board ignore odors?  However, we found the General Assembly was not interested in this point.  It may be considered unfriendly to business. BURNT has worked two odor cases in Nashville (the four largest cities have identical enabling laws to the State which are interpreted to allow them to regulate air quality).  In both cases involving odors, businesses thrived after the offending plant was closed or regulated.  Of course, farms are a germane point against regulation. Here are examples of citizen testimony about Middle Point landfill in Murfreesboro on August 22 2013: Ms C.W.  –“…the smell [Murfreesboro landfill] is really bad on some days…[the people who live in] Walter Hill should not have to smell the odors that are emitted ” Pre-Hearing Comment #1, pg. 1 of 35 ** Mr. J. R. —“I live about 1 ½ miles from the landfill as the crow flies.  I have lived in my house for 28 years.  For the first 18 years it was not an issue.  In the last 10 years it has been a major issue.  Being able to go out and sit on my porch in the back and have to put up with...

Shortcomings of the TDEC Solid Waste Report

BURNT analyzed the TDEC Solid Waste Report and found many faults. We wrote to the Attorney General, the Governor, the Commissioner, and the Division of Audit, yet received only one perfunctory reply. There can be no doubt that TDEC solid waste policy is a group effort. We found in an economy which took advantage of highly processed raw materials in solid waste there would be almost nothing to landfill. We found that TDEC violates Tennessee Code Annotated 69-211-803 which requires that solid waste facilities do not injure people or the environment. We found that compostable food waste is the largest landfilled waste stream which insures that landfills hurt people and the environment. We found that TDEC and the State solid Waste Board materially changed the conclusions of the Solid Waste Task force, which repudiates the repetitive cry of the Tennessee municipal league for no unfunded solid waste mandates. It is the cities hosting the landfills which suffer unfunded mandates. TDEC_Annual_Report.letters...