Friday, July 13, 2012

Fewer bins, more recyclers?

County debates change to recycling program

Express Staff Writer

Life may get a little easier for curbside recyclers, as a citizen task force has recommended that Blaine County cut the number of required bins for recycled materials.

The Blaine County Recycling Advisory Committee met with the county commissioners in a public hearing Tuesday to recommend changes to the county's recycling program that would make recycling easier but still allow the center to collect the maximum amount of revenue.

The type of recycling program recommended by the committee is called a "modified sort" system. Instead of placing seven materials—glass, plastic, tin, aluminum, newspapers, magazines and mixed paper—into six bins at the curb, residents will be able to lump together metals and papers, sorting into four bins.

Committee members estimated that this change could result in a 20 percent increase in recycling participation.

Josh Bartlome, director of the Southern Idaho Solid Waste District, said that the recommended method helps increase convenience for haulers and residents while still producing recyclables with a low rate of contamination. A low rate of contamination—when other recyclables get mixed into the wrong bin—helps keep the price for which the center can sell materials higher, he said.

However, recyclers will see some changes to what types of plastic they are able to recycle. Clear Creek Disposal currently picks up—and the recycling center accepts—all grades of plastic. However, county resident and advisory board member Mike Thompson said the committee is recommending only accepting plastic grades 1 through 5.

That means that while the county will continue to accept soda bottles, milk jugs, laundry detergent bottles, vinyl and ketchup and margarine tubs, it will not accept Styrofoam containers, packing peanuts or other materials.

Those types of plastic can be identified by a number imprinted on the bottom of the container. The county will also no longer accept PVC pipe, which it used to accept curbside.

Committee members also recommended not including glass in curbside pickup. County Director of Operations Char Nelson said glass breaks in recycling trucks, contaminating other materials and causing injuries to recycling center staff members.

"Currently, when it's delivered on trucks, it's dropped in a bin, it's put in a pile and it has to be hauled up to an inert pit," she said. "It breaks, it contaminates other materials."


Thompson said one staff member was injured from glass coming off a machine, and required six stitches.

The recycling center would still accept glass at its Ohio Gulch and Carey drop-off sites. Glass is technically not recycled, but is diverted from the landfill and kept in a pit next to the recycling center facility. Nelson said the diversion saves the county the cost of shipping the glass to Milner-Butte Landfill near Burley, as well as pays for the space the glass would take up in the landfill.

Bartlome said the committee did consider dual-stream and single-stream recycling programs such as those in place in Boise and Twin Falls. The problem, he said, was that revenue from the sale of these materials drops significantly and the risk of contamination increases.

Single-stream recycling is the easiest for consumers, with all recyclables in one bin, and dual-stream separates fibers such as newspaper and mixed paper from plastic, metal and glass to reduce the chance of residue contaminating the porous fibers.

Bartlome said that because of contamination and falling market prices, the city of Boise ended up having to pay a processing center $15 per ton to take its recycling in 2009, as opposed to receiving the roughly $45 per ton that Nelson said the commodities receive now.

Committee member and city of Ketchum representative Joyce Allgaier said that if the commissioners approve the committee's recommendations within the next week, all changes could be effected by Oct. 1. The committee would take until Sept. 1 to plan a comprehensive public relations plan, then take the month of September to launch an education and outreach campaign in schools and businesses and with the public.

Hailey resident Kathy Tyson-Foster said the committee plans to put information out on flyers, in newspapers, on the radio and on the county website.

The commissioners said they supported the recommendations, but will wait until after the next public hearing on July 17 to make a final decision.

Commissioners Tom Bowman and Larry Schoen said they would like to revisit the issue of glass recycling at a later time, but were generally supportive of the program—though Schoen jokingly said he might have trouble complying with the new sorting system.

"As someone who has been a committed recycler for so many years, I have to say, it's going to be hard putting my magazines in with my newspapers," he said.

The county commissioners will consider the issue at one more public meeting on Tuesday, July 17, at 6 p.m. at the Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey. Public comment will be taken.

Kate Wutz:

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