Friday, September 16, 2011

County maps future of recycling program

Commissioners want to hear from public

Char Nelson, director of operations for Blaine County, discusses the systems used at the recycling center in Ohio Gulch, north of Hailey. Photo by David N. Seelig


For the Express

Blaine County commissioners agreed Monday to hold a public meeting on an as-yet-unscheduled date in mid-October to take comments on the goals and processes of the county's recycling program.

Blaine County took over the recycling program from southern Idaho Solid Waste District last fall.

"We have a strong desire to hear from the public about what they expect from the program," said Commissioner Larry Schoen, but he expressed concern over a proposal to create a "steering committee" to study the direction of the current program.

"We do not need to delay, waiting for a study by a steering committee," he said. "I'm wary that such a committee would govern the recycling center."

Schoen said the county needs to determine whether to move from a duel- to a single-stream system, which is more difficult to set up. In a single-stream system, all the collected materials are commingled and sorted later at the facility, but that requires significant changes to accomplish, including new carts, collection vehicles and upgrading the processing facility.

Commissioner Tom Bowman questioned whether recycling in an isolated area with high transportation costs to major recycled-product processing centers defeated the program's purpose and just felt good.

"We have to have established goals," he said. "What are they—to reduce our use of energy and greenhouse gases? Reduce our carbon footprint? I don't know how to measure efficiency because I don't know the goals."

Bowman said he wonders if reduction of use instead of recycling shouldn't be the focus. Even so, he said, there are benefits to the program and it should be improved, not abandoned.


"Environmental leadership is a high value to this community," Schoen said. "The goal is to use the earth's resources efficiently to the best of our ability. It costs money to do that and our remote location affects this. We need to use our financial resources effectively to achieve this goal."

Commissioner Angenie McCleary emphasized the importance of better public information that is easily obtained and simple, as well as providing good customer service at the Ohio Gulch facility.

"We need an avenue for public engagement," she said. "The committee has to have a clear role so they know the realm of what they are working on."

She said there should be public input on what the committee function would be.

The recycling program has an annual budget of $243,405. The commissioners agreed there isn't enough of a market for recycled materials for sales revenue to fully fund the program.

Lisa Huttinger, education coordinator for the nonprofit Environmental Resource Center in Ketchum, said she fields a lot of calls from residents looking to recycle items not accepted at the landfill, and organizations such as hers could be helpful and cost effective in disseminating information to the public.

"You should consider ERC the resource for information," she said.

"We should work together to meet community needs," Schoen responded.

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