As stewards of the environment and champions of sustainability, iSustain is proud to collaborate with Dollywood Parks & Resorts in its mission to preserve the pristine beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. This magnificent natural setting serves as our inspiration and drives our commitment to an innovative recycling program for Dollywood’s parks that will safeguard this splendor for generations to come.
iSustain partner Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB) recently was named “2023 Nonprofit Recycler of the Year” by the Tennessee Recycling Coalition for a recycling program launched at Dollywood. Through this initiative, approximately 350,000 cigarette butts have been recycled and turned into items like plastic outdoor furniture. That effort is just one of the recycling programs in place at Dollywood Parks & Resorts, and it takes place under the watchful eye of Dollywood’s Grounds Manager, Bobby Johnson.
Johnson has grown the park’s recycling efforts during his tenure and has recently launched his most ambitious recycling program yet, one that he hopes will see the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, park reach a goal of ultimately having 100% of its refuse not reach a landfill. We are proud to announce that iSustain is now partnering with Dollywood and their partner, Coca-Cola, to increase recycling efforts to eventually reach Dollywood’s goal.
Johnson contacted iSustain after searching for a recycling partner that could help with the unique needs of the theme park environment. Founded by Dawn and Mark Huber, iSustain works with companies to identify the best and most effective recycling plans based on a number of factors.
“As a National Recycling Solution Provider for industry, it is exciting to be partnering and helping Dollywood make an impact right here in our home state and our treasured Smoky Mountains. Dollywood Park faces unique recycling challenges due to their expansive property size, the sheer number of employees and guests visiting each day, along with the diversity of waste” said Mark Huber, Vice President of Business Development for iSustain Inc. The specialty of iSustain lies in the implementation of creative recycling, zero landfill programs and full circularity solutions across North America.
iSustain helped Dollywood source a specialized PET bottle baler to ensure the many discarded beverage bottles that move through the park are baled and ready to sell to companies capable of achieving 100 percent recycling of polypropylene caps and PET bottles. Additionally, Dollywood’s partnership with Coca-Cola provided new plastic recycling bins which allow a convenient location for park guests to discard bottles. A Dollywood host sorts through the bottles, removing all foreign objects placed into the containers.
“We are proud to partner with Dollywood to bolster recycling and awareness across the park,” said Pete
Lucic, Director of Strategic Partnerships & On-Premise for Coca-Cola North America. “Together, our
partnership serves as a great example of how we can join forces with our customers to drive
sustainability initiatives forward to create real, meaningful change.”
Once sorted, bundling machines compact the bottles into 700 lb. cubes. iSustain coordinates the logistics and the sale of cardboard and plastics on Dollywood’s behalf to maximize recycling rates and create the best market value. The revenue generated from the cardboard and plastic sales is donated to Dollywood’s Share-it-Forward, a program that helps employees during times of need.
iSustain arranges shipping of the products, which may wind up at a number of locations. For example, several shipments have been sent to Dalton, Georgia, for recovery of the PET to be reused into carpeting. The rest of Dollywood’s household garbage and waste is sent to Sevier Solid Waste, Inc. (SSWI) in Pigeon Forge. All organic waste from homes and businesses in Sevier County is composted at the facility, with more than 50,000 tons of compost produced each year.
Bobby Johnson, Dollywood’s Grounds Manager, remains committed to expanding the park’s recycling efforts. He studies trends and observes guest behavior daily to determine the most effective solutions for the problem.
“When Big Bear Mountain opened, I was walking the queue line and noticed a lot of bottles sitting around because guests couldn’t take them on the ride,” Johnson explained. “We had a number of trash cans, but not as many recycling cans in the queue. We put more recycling cans in the lines and now those fill up faster than most others in the park.”
When iSustain’s new bottle bundling recycling program started, it took 31 days to have enough bottles to create the first bundle. Johnson says it now only takes about 10 days due to the increased number of recycling cans and the strategic locations of those cans. With momentum moving in the right direction, Johnson remains focused on his overall goal.
“One-hundred percent not in the landfill is our ultimate goal,” Johnson said. “We’re already looking at adding new hosts due to the increase of needs associated with the program. My outlook is that we continue advancing the types of materials we are recycling. Next would be plastic films and buckets and move from there. We already are working with our operating teams, specifically our culinary team, to have them order serveware and other items that are compostable or easily recycled.”
At iSustain, we are honored to be part of this remarkable partnership with Dollywood, contributing our expertise and passion for sustainability to help preserve the natural wonders of the Great Smoky Mountains. With the combined efforts of our organization, Dollywood Parks & Resorts, and their partners, we aim to accomplish their bold goal of diverting 100 percent of waste out of landfills.