Blaine County commissioners will give county residents a chance to say how and what they want to recycle in a public hearing tonight.
Char Nelson, county director of operations, said the hearing is part of a fulfillment of a promise the commissioners made early this year when they decided to take over the Blaine County Recycling Center at Ohio Gulch.
"This is an opportunity to come and learn about the recycle center, how it's operating currently, and to comment on changes," Nelson said.
The commissioners agreed in June to take on operations of the center from the Southern Idaho Solid Waste District and look into ways to change its operations to make it more efficient and to better meet the needs of the community.
One change that Nelson said she is eyeing is a switch to single-stream or dual-sort recycling. Single-stream—also known as co-mingled recycling—is when aluminum, paper, plastic and cardboard are all collected in the same bin. Unlike the current curbside sort program, residents would not need to separate anything except glass, saving time and possibly increasing the amount of material that residents recycle.
Catherine Chertudi, solid waste programs manager for the city of Boise, said earlier this year that the city saw increases in both volume of materials recycled and the number of participants when the city switched to single stream in 2009.
However, single-stream materials do not fetch as high a price from buyers.
Dual-stream recycling is another option that the county is weighing. Similar to single-stream, it differs only in that cardboard is separated from plastic and other recyclables. Nelson said this could increase the amount of revenue that the county receives.
"We receive quite a bit of money from cardboard because it can go straight to the manufacturer," she said.
Glass would need to be separated out in either case, as it is not recycled but merely diverted from the landfill in an attempt to save on the fuel used to truck the material to Milner Butte Landfill in Burley. Nelson said selling the glass might be a possibility in the future, but is not being done currently due to lack of demand.
The county commissioners are also weighing the merits of a composting system, in which residents and businesses could separate food waste from garbage and recyclables and have that food waste picked up at the curb. Wood River Recycling, a local company affiliated with Cedar Grove Composting in Seattle, has been contacted by the county to consider building a composting center in Ohio Gulch.
The center would turn residential and restaurant food waste, along with yard waste such as grass clippings, into products such as compost and potting soil. That would reduce the volume of material going to the Miler Butte Landfill, saving trucking costs for the county.
Nelson said Wood River Recycling is conducting studies to determine whether enough residents would produce enough food waste to make the program financially feasible.
Residential surveys can be accessed at www.surveymonkey.com/s/87VMBLX, and businesses can weigh in at www.surveymonkey.com/s/8VBSPLD.
Ultimately, the direction of the Blaine County Recycling Center will be decided by a 15-member citizen advisory committee headed by Nelson. The committee is made up of representatives from the county, Ketchum, Hailey, Bellevue, the Environmental Resource Center, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Sun Valley Co., Clear Creek Disposal, recycling center staff and two interested county residents.
Nelson said the committee would take all comments from tonight's public meeting and see where the recycling center can improve its operations. The committee will present its findings and an improvement plan to the county this summer, Nelson said.
"This is an important time to weigh in, because certainly the comments made may affect the direction the committee goes," she said. "We want to ensure that we are doing the best job we can with the resources we have."
The hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. tonight, Dec. 14, at the old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey.
Katherine Wutz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brush up on recycling
Want to become more informed before coming to the public hearing? Search "To sort or not to sort?" on our website (www.mtexpress.com) for an article on single-stream recycling in Idaho, and "Composting plan resurrected" for an article on Wood River Recycling.