Guests at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, won’t find recycling bins inside the resort, but that doesn’t mean all of their recyclables are ending up in a landfill.
Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa is located in Sevier County. The Sevier Solid Waste Composting Facility opened in 1991 and became one of the first in the world to use large rotating drums to break down trash into compost. In fact, it is still one of just around a dozen of these facilities in the world. Because of these rotating “digesters,” Sevier Solid Waste (SSW) currently is able to send around 70% of incoming waste to composting and recycling, minimizing the amount ending up in landfills. SSW is also the largest municipal solid waste compost facility in the nation. SSW is working on a new even more advanced recycling system that will increase the recycling rate to be around 79%.
SSW accepts waste from all across Sevier County and Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the facility. All of the waste is mixed with bio-solids and put into the digesters for three days. During this process, anything organic, including food and paper, becomes compost.
Conveyer belts move the compost to large sifters, where inorganic and recyclable items like plastic and glass are removed from the compost. The recyclable items are then recycled! That is one reason why you won’t find recycling bins inside Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa. SSW removes all recyclable materials once the composting process has begun. The only items required to be separated are construction and demolition materials, electronics and tires.
Interestingly, SSW asks that cardboard is separated for recycling. Instead of including the cardboard as compost since it is a paper product), the county is able to resell the cardboard to help offset operating costs. A separate building at the facility holds the cardboard until it is sold.
After the compost is thoroughly sifted, it is placed in windrows (not windows, windrows!) where it continues breaking down. After several weeks, it is sifted once more. The final product is Grade A compost. The facility produces more than 70,000 tons of compost each year. Sevier County residents can get bags of the compost for free to use at home, and local farmers also use the compost for their fields.
This facility puts Sevier County in the forefront of recycling and taking care of the environment nationwide. SSW also partners with Keep Sevier Beautiful, a program that began in the early 2000s as a way to educate residents and visitors about the importance of maintaining the natural beauty in Smokies.
SSW has fine-tuned the system since 1991 and now helps other communities answer questions about how they too can develop these facilities.