The Hailey City Council got the news recently that Ketchum recycles more material than does Hailey, a fact that didn't seem to sit well with city leaders.
"Why?" asked Councilman Fritz Haemmerle during a council meeting Monday.
Hailey Sustainability Director Mariel Platt said it could be some time before the city knows the answer to the question, but it could have to do with the higher number of commercial accounts in Ketchum (350), compared to Hailey (259).
Platt delivered a report to the council on Monday as it considers changes in garbage hauling that could lessen the dumping of recyclable materials at the Milner Butte landfill, where garbage is sent.
Platt said recycling in Hailey has doubled from 2004 to 2010. She also reported that Hailey's position as the largest city in Blaine County means it carries a proportionally larger role in maintaining recycling services for the county as a whole.
Citing a worst-case scenario, Platt said if Hailey's recycling efforts diminished considerably it could reduce the economy of scale that supports the countywide recycling program at the Ohio Gulch transfer station.
"Because Hailey is the largest community in the county [aside from unincorporated areas that do not have curbside recycling], a decrease in recycling participation in Hailey could mean a large enough drop in volume for the entire county, to the degree that the economics could render recycling unfeasible for the entire county,"
The Hailey council seems poised to make sure that never happens. On Monday, council members expressed a desire to increase trash-bin size options in order to divert recyclable materials from weekly curbside garbage pickups.
The city has had a "pay-as-you-throw" program since the 1990s, which charges more for larger garbage bins, presumably creating an incentive to divert recyclable materials from the landfill.
The city's current contract with Clear Creek Disposal gives customers the option of using a small, 32-gallon bin for $11 per month or a large, 98-gallon bin for $28. The council is preparing a request for proposals from garbage haulers that is likely to include a medium-size, 68-gallon option.
The medium-size bin could cost about $10 less per month than the large bin, depending on trash-hauling bids, expected early next year. The council is hoping the saving of $10 per month would lead to more recycling.
Platt said that despite Hailey's record of increasing recycling amounts over the past seven years, the city continues to recycle at less than half the national average.
Platt's report states that all municipalities in California, Oregon and Washington offer recycling and "pay-as-you-throw" incentives, compared with only 22 percent of Colorado and Utah cities and 12 percent of Idaho cities.
Councilwoman Carol Brown thanked Platt for the "excellent report."
Brown said that in addition to efforts at public education about the environmental benefits of recycling, the city should also notify Hailey residents about what materials and containers can be recycled at Ohio Gulch transfer station.
"Reducing waste in the landfill is good public policy," Brown said.
Ohio Gulch transfer station north of Hailey currently recycles tin and aluminum cans, glass, mixed paper (including cereal boxes), newspaper, magazines, phone books, plastic bottles and containers categories 1-7, and corrugated cardboard.
"The number of types of materials have been increasing at Ohio Gulch," Platt said.