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Lee Norris

Chattanooga will join a neighboring city one-eighth its size in offering free 96-gallon cans to expand curbside recycling.

East Ridge has offered the service for more than a year. If the Chattanooga Council approves the proposed 2015 budget, public works officials will start sending out cans to 16,000 customers already signed up for recycling.

Now Chattanooga residents have to leave their aluminum and cardboard beside the street in boxes or garbage bags marked for recycling. No glass is allowed. Between 11,000 and 12,000 customers -- about a sixth of the households in Chattanooga -- regularly use curbside recycling, said Public Works Director Lee Norris.

Norris said he has been trying for years to expand the service, and this year, through the budgeting for outcomes process, he pitched an idea that the mayor's office approved.

The goal is to give 20,000 cans to residents by the end of the next fiscal year, June 31, 2015, and continue to grow the service by another 15,000 in the next two years.

"We're going to make it so convenient, and we're expanding what we're taking," he said. "What more could you ask for?"

The price tag for Chattanooga taxpayers is $2.5 million.

Norris said the capital investment of $1.5 million will pay for three automatic trucks, eliminating three positions that will be absorbed through attrition. The capital expense will be offset by revenue from sales of recycled goods -- an estimated $250,000 a year.

The city also will hire a recycling coordinator to meet with neighborhood associations and promote recycling programs. And Orange Grove Center, which contracts with Chattanooga to collect and sort the recycled materials at its center, will expand its training program for adults with mental disabilities using $100,000 from the city.

Orange Grove Director Kyle Hauth said as the curbside recycling program expands, the center will be able to hire more of its trained workers. Currently, the center trains about 124 adults a year and employs about 10 each quarter.

In their budget request, Orange Grove officials said their goal is to expand the program to help 25 people find jobs either through the recycling center or in the community.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at or 423-757-6659.