The recycling partnership that began 23 years ago between the City of Chattanooga and Orange Grove Center continues to thrive as an invaluable service throughout the community today. The Orange Grove Recycling program provides Chattanooga residents with a number of recycling services, and employs over two hundred individuals with intellectual disabilities.
The Orange Grove Center, a private, non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization serving adults and children with developmental and intellectual disabilities, is the oldest and largest organization in Tennessee serving this population. Established in 1953 by families of children with developmental disabilities, the organization is celebrating sixty years of incredible public and private endeavors by serving 750 individuals with varying abilities and challenges.
The recycling program was initiated in 1990 when the city began to allow residents to place recyclables at the street for pick-up. The items were then sent to the Orange Grove Center Materials Recovery Facility. In 2006, when the City decided to utilize a partial curbside and convenience center approach, it was Orange Grove that agreed to manage the City’s Convenience Centers as well as the City Refuse Centers.
“Individuals served by Orange Grove need employment services and remunerative work placements in order to be less dependent and more involved in their community,” said Kyle Hauth, Executive Director of Orange Grove Center. “The recycling partnership between the city and Orange Grove allows the individuals we serve to be productive, have jobs and contribute to the overall welfare of our city.”
Today, there are a number of recycling initiatives that Orange Grove manages in order to create jobs and training for the people it serves. Orange Grove developed The Better Shred than Read business three years ago, a secure document destruction program that serves 150 businesses in the area including large federal contractors, hospitals and law offices, among others. The program employs thirteen individuals with intellectual disabilities and four people without disabilities. The program recently added a second truck in order to keep up with increasing demand for services.
Other recycling endeavors include the five Convenience Centers where approximately 11,000 families choose to take their recyclables, rather than use the curbside service. The Convenience Centers alone employ twenty four people with intellectual disabilities.
Orange Grove also maintains Chattanooga’s Refuse Centers, were residents can dispose of large items like furniture and appliances; Recycle Express, serving 170 business in Chattanooga through a pickup services each week; Document Destruction, developed as a result of a national grant in order to employ people with significant disabilities; and, the Electronic Recycling Plant, which allows individuals and business in East Tennessee to drop of electronics for recycling.
Recycling Center Coordinator, Greg Lindsey, said, “Orange Grove has proven to be a leader in efficient and well-planned recycling endeavors while granting employment for many hard working individuals.”
Orange Grove has spent over $3 million in capital improvements for the recycling program. Employees separate, bale, and sell to regional recycling end markets. The result? Orange Grove Recycling diverts more than 1.5 million pounds of materials each month from local landfills.