Lexington's landlocked 7.5-acre recycling facility on Thompson Road is bursting at the seams.
The glass is stored and processed outside, where bales of recyclable material also are sometimes stored before being shipped to recycling mills.
During peak seasons, the facility operates 10 to 12 hours a day, sometimes six days a week, to keep up with the amount of material flowing in.
The city is searching for a new recycling home to keep up with demand and provide space for expansion, which will be needed to meet the city's goal of becoming trash-free by 2020.
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A larger site is vital to the trash-free effort, said Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry.
"People are looking for ways to recycle even more of their waste stream than they currently do," he said. "I see that recyclable stream growing in years to come."
The search for a new site has narrowed to a 30-acre parcel on Old Frankfort Pike that adjoins land the city owns.
In December, the Urban County Council approved an $83,300 six-month option to purchase the property, giving the city time to study it in detail.
If the city chooses to buy the land, the money already spent will go toward the purchase price. If the city walks away, that money will be forfeited.
The property owner, Nuti Builders, is asking $1.65 million for the land, which is $55,000 an acre.
The option is a risk, but the city has conducted a preliminary analysis that shows it's a good site for the city's needs, said Cheryl Taylor, the city's environmental quality commissioner.
Moving the recycling center from Thompson Road would also resolve tension between the recycling center and residents of the Oak Park-Melrose neighborhood.
"I'm extremely excited about it," said John Burton, whose house backs up to the recycling center. "I'm going to have a party when they move. They are the worst neighbors in the world."
Paper and plastic from the center regularly blow into his yard and noise from trucks moving dumpsters begins at 5:30 a.m., said Burton, vice president of the Oak Park-Melrose Neighborhood Association.
The proposed site on Old Frankfort would also have permanent places to drop off electronic and hazardous waste.
It is surrounded by a flood plain that would become a greenway to buffer the recycling center from neighbors, including Three Chimneys Farm.
The city could turn the greenway into an "environmental public service park" to teach people about recycling and water quality, Taylor said.
The biggest problem with the property so far is a conditional zoning restriction that prevents it from being used as a recycling, sorting or baling facility.
"Since the city is a governmental entity, technically we can ignore that restriction," Taylor said. "But, philosophically, we should not ignore it."
Instead, the city plans to undertake a public facilities review, a process in which the Urban County Planning Commission reviews and makes recommendations about a proposed governmental facility.
Through that process, the city can invite the public to comment and include neighbors in the design of a facility that is both functional and attractive, Taylor said.
"Old Frankfort Pike is a strange place," she said. "It's one of the most beautiful streets coming into Lexington or it could be one of the ugliest, depending on which section you're on. We want to be part of the beautiful."
Three Chimneys Farm owns land at Old Frankfort and Alexandria Drive that is being developed into a breeding and boarding facility.
The city's proposal is in the very early stages so it's unclear how the facility would look, sound or smell, but Three Chimneys is comfortable with the idea of a recycling facility nearby, said Brad Caron, Three Chimneys' facilities director.
A substantial buffer has already been created with the greenway, and a roundabout proposed for Old Frankfort and Alexandria would provide another buffer, Caron said. "We feel those buffers would provide us a proper, safe environment to raise horses."
If the city decides to move forward with the purchase, the new recycling center wouldn't be open for at least three years, Taylor said.
In the meantime, the city hopes to buy new sorting equipment to increase capacity while decreasing the number of workers needed. The equipment would eliminate the need to further extend hours at the recycling center.
About 30 workers at the center process eight tons of material an hour. The new equipment would roughly triple the capacity to 23 tons an hour and reduce the manual labor needed to 23 people.
The new equipment will eliminate the need for residents to separate glass from their other recycling, making the city's recycling collection more efficient, Taylor said.
Currently, work crews have to exit the truck to physically check each Rosie recycling container for the glass recycling bin. With the new equipment, crews can dump the Rosies without checking them.
The new sorting equipment can be moved to the new recycling center whenever it opens, Taylor said.