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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of February 26 - March 4, 2003


Valley residents support in-town recycling bins

Express Staff Writer

Almost 90 percent of respondents to a recent survey said they would use recycling drop-off bins in Ketchum and Hailey, if such bins were installed.

That figure was part of a survey of 700 people conducted by volunteers from the Environmental Resource Center outside local post offices earlier this winter. The goal was to determine how many people in the Wood River Valley know about their recycling options and how many are recycling. Other questions pertained to ways the valley could improve its recycling.

Eighty-five percent said they feel recycling is "very" or "fairly" important, and 81 percent said they recycle at home. Only 1 percent said they "don’t care" about recycling.

As a result of those attitudes, Blaine County has the most successful recycling program in southern Idaho. During a meeting with the county commissioners last week, Southern Idaho Solid Waste Director Terry Schultz said Blaine County recycles 2,000 tons of material annually, compared to a total of 900 tons recycled by all the other six counties in the agency’s service area.

"It’s clear that the mindset to recycle is much greater in the Wood River Valley than elsewhere," Schultz said.

However, one of the main findings of the ERC survey was a lack of awareness on local recycling options. Many people indicated they do not realize that curbside recycling is available for all valley residents, and that recycling is free for residents of Ketchum and Hailey. Others are unaware there is a recycling center at Ohio Gulch Transfer station, where most commodities can be recycled for free.

People were asked what the main barrier to recycling in the valley is. Of the three choices offered—cost, location and "too confusing"—over half picked location.

When asked if they would support a downtown drop-off site to facilitate recycling, 92 percent said they would use it to recycle items not in the curbside program. Those items include cardboard, junk mail, plastic bottles, office paper and paperboard. Eighty-nine percent said they would use a drop-off location to recycle all of their recyclable materials.

"This is not a surprising statistic for us," said ERC Outreach Coordinator Jeanne Liston. "The ERC receives a lot of phone calls from people who are frustrated that there is not somewhere in town to recycle. Many are tourists or second home owners who are only here a couple weeks out of the year. They come from other areas of the country where recycling is a part of everyday life, and they are confused as to why such a sophisticated resort community does not make it easier to recycle."

Liston said a previous drop-off site in Ketchum was terminated after some people simply left their trash there.

"It’s not as easy as it seems," she said. "But it’s something that the community wants, so we’ve got to get going on it. We have to come up with something that works better."

Items that can be recycled at Ohio Gulch are newspaper, magazines, glass, tin, aluminum, #1 and #2 plastic bottles, junk mail, cardboard, paperboard, office paper, phonebooks, used oil, batteries, antifreeze, used tires and yard waste. All but glass and yard waste is turned into new products. Since prices for recycled glass do not cover transportation costs, it is crushed and used as a base under the asphalt for local highway construction.

Schultz told the commissioners last week that even some items that can be turned into new products are not profitable to recycle. He said those include paper, cardboard and metals. The problem at this point, he said, is not insufficient recycling, but demand by manufacturers.

However, all recycled items help reduce the fees Blaine County pays to dump garbage at the Milner Butte Landfill, near Burley. Last year the valley recycled almost 2,000 tons of material, saving the county over $23,000 in landfill fees.

"This savings is money that can be put toward other services in the community," Liston said. "People want to know that by recycling they’re making a difference. I’m here to tell them they are."

In an effort to increase recycling awareness, the ERC has started a media outreach campaign. Various community leaders have created newspaper and radio ads explaining how and why they recycle.

Anyone with questions about recycling can call Liston at the ERC at 726-4333.

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