The number of curbside recycling bins will be reduced by half this fall, along with the amount of time and effort required by residents to sort recycling for pickup.
The Blaine County commissioners approved a new recycling system Tuesday night following a public hearing during which a citizen advisory board recommended that the amount of sorting required be reduced. The new program will begin Oct. 1.
The type of recycling program recommended by the committee is called a "modified sort" system. Rather than having recyclers separately sort out tin, aluminum, plastic, newspapers, magazines and mixed paper into bins, the new system would allow residents to simply sort materials into three groups—fiber (all paper items), metal (all cans) and plastic.
However, recyclers will no longer be able to recycle certain grades of plastic, nor will they be able to place glass at the curb.
Currently, the county and its recycling haulers accept all grades of plastic, including vinyl, films and Styrofoam takeout containers. Plastic is sorted into seven grades, but the task force recommended only allowing grades 1 through 5 to be accepted—not PVC pipe and any films such as Saran Wrap or plastic shopping bags.
County resident Mike Thompson, a member of the advisory committee, said at Tuesday's meeting that these guidelines are meant to keep the county's plastics more pure, which expands the number of products the plastic can be recycled into.
"As they get contaminated, the usage starts to become limited," he said, identifying plastic grades 6 and 7 as contaminants. He urged a focus on reducing use of plastic, rather than attempting to recycle more of it—especially as recycled plastic is shipped to China.
Glass will only be accepted at the recycling center, rather than at curbside. County Director of Operations Char Nelson said last week that glass breaks in the trucks that pick it up from homes, contaminating other materials and posing a hazard for recycling center employees.
Glass is currently dumped in an inert pit at the recycling center in Ohio Gulch, saving the county the price of buying space in Milner-Butte Landfill near Burley, as well as the fuel needed to ship the material.
"Glass has never been recycled in Blaine County—it has been diverted," he said. "For us to recycle glass, the best option we could find was shipping it to Colorado."
That would cost the county $70,000 a year and would require separating the glass by color. There is no current market for using glass as aggregate for road mix, he said, as sand and gravel serve the same purpose and are cheaper—especially as crushing the glass would require the purchase of a $150,000 pulverizer, equipment that would also require $30,000 a year in maintenance to replace the hammers that crush the glass.
The committee plans to launch a campaign to inform recyclers of the changes to the program as of Sept. 1, with the changes to take place by Oct. 1. Hailey resident Kathy Tyson-Foster said an outreach campaign would include informational flyers, ads in newspapers, radio ads and information on the county website.
Tyson-Foster estimated that this campaign could cost $16,200, half the cost of which would be borne by the county while the other half could be taken on by the cities. Presentations have been scheduled at city council meetings.
The commissioners approved the changes unanimously Tuesday night, expressing enthusiastic support for the program.
"The work that was done, the research and the conclusions are rock-solid," said Commissioner Tom Bowman. "There's no room for argument, and this is the only conclusion you could have come to."
Kate Wutz: firstname.lastname@example.org