Take a good look at the picture above. Chances are, your name is on something in that pile.
• One hundred million trees are ground up every year to produce the 4.5 million tons of junk mail that clutter our mailboxes.
• You’ll receive about 1-1_2 trees worth of junk mail this year.
• The average person spends eight months of his or her life opening junk mail.
People in Blaine County throw away more trash than average Americans–and the various city fathers here are trying to do something about it. Can you say “recycling?”
It’s certainly not a new concept–Hailey began its program five years ago. But Sun Valley took some flack recently for adopting a plan that rewards recyclers and costs non-recyclers more money.
When the city voted this year to change the terms of its contract with trash hauling company Clear Creek Disposal in favor of a system meant to encourage the increase of recycling, it raised a few hackles on residents.
The standard flat rate was replaced by payment options. The cost increased with the size of the trash container. The biggest cost was for the 95-gallon container at $38 a month. The smallest container, a 32-gallon cart, costs only $17.
But, every size option includes recycling at no charge. Logically, an average household can’t stuff all its trash into the 32-gallon unit without limiting the amount tossed out. One of the ways to throw less into the trash can is to remove materials that can be recycled.
Plainly, residents were being asked to recycle, or pay more for a garbage can. Instead of dumping everything into one can, residents have to take the time to separate and manage recyclables. Sun Valley makes available to residents six separate containers for various recyclables.
The city also made accommodations for the many people coming for only a few days at a time. There are complete disposal services at Sun Valley City Hall and the Elkhorn Fire Station. That means a homeowner or renter can recycle or ditch trash without waiting for the once-a-week curbside pickup.
Once a person gets into recycling, there is even more to consider, says Mike Goitiandia, owner of Clear Creek Disposal. “It’s more than what you pull out of your garbage,” he says, because reducing the amount of trash means buying more wisely at the grocery store.
He noted products with minimal packaging don’t add to household trash. Someone who carries and reuses a water bottle instead of buying and tossing drinking water bottles several times a day also reduces trash.
Goitiandia says that until this summer, Sun Valley charged $4.50 a month for recycling.
“They really have decided to jump onboard and take care of business and emphasize that recycling needs to happen,” says Goitiandia.
Craig Barry, executive director with the Environmental Resource Center in Ketchum and former National Recycling Coalition consultant, says studies show recycling increases 10 to 25 percent when cities use variable rates linked to the amount of trash produced.
“The more you throw away, the more you pay,” says Barry. “It’s a novel idea, it seems, when it comes to solid waste.” >>>
Barry says the Environmental Protection Agency has been pushing cities and states to eliminate flat rate trash removal charges because they don’t encourage recycling. Utilities such as water, gas and electricity have been charged by the amount consumed in most areas for years.
Flat rates might be easy, he said, but they aren’t effective in reducing solid waste–the kind of trash that has no reuse value. Known as the “waste stream,” such trash is simply thrown out.
The waste stream costs money to remove from neighborhoods. On the other hand, recycled materials are either taken away at no cost, or purchased outright. In Blaine County, a member of the Southern Idaho Solid Waste District, material taken to the transfer station at Ohio Gulch north of Hailey costs $55 a ton and gets removed to Milner Butte in Burley.
Except for glass, recyclables are crushed and bundled into tight bales at the Blaine County Resource Center in Ohio Gulch. The landfill at Ohio Gulch uses crushed glass as fill material around inert materials such as wood and stone from construction demolition.
Barry says the average Blaine County resident generates six pounds of trash a week compared to the national average of 4.7 pounds a week. He estimates much is being tossed that could be reused. Tin, plastics, cardboard and various papers are made into new items by manufacturers. They are, therefore, actual resources.
The city of Hailey, like Sun Valley, includes curbside recycling in its rates. Residents choose a 32-gallon container for $11.45 a month or a 95-gallon container for $22.89.
Barry called Sun Valley and Hailey the “most progressive” of the Blaine County cities because they offer a financial incentive to reward recycling.
Ketchum still charges a flat rate of $21.07 per residence without limiting customers to one trash container. Recyclable materials are picked up at the curb at no charge. Bellevue, on the other hand, charges $4.95 for recycling.
Bellevue fees are $11.19 for a 32-gallon cart; $15.21 for a 68-gallon cart; and $16.05 for a 95-gallon cart. The city of Carey has no recycling services.
In order not to waste cardboard, which is the most valuable of all recyclable materials, Hailey, Sun Valley and Ketchum have sites where homeowners can toss flattened boxes.
In Hailey, it’s the Bullion and River street parking lot; in Ketchum, it’s the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints parking lot; and in Sun Valley, it’s City Hall and the Elkhorn Fire Station.
Those two Sun Valley locations have recycling for other materials as well, ensuring that guests coming and going don’t have to leave containers on the curb when they aren’t home. Sun Valley also has a seasonal program to allow homeowners to put lawn trimmings and “green” waste in separate containers for Clear Creek Disposal to remove.
Hailey led the way in Blaine County, having started its recycling program five years ago, but Barry said there’s still more to do here.
“We’re not breaking any new ground,” says Barry. “We’re just trying to catch up to the rest of the country.”
And it appears the population is moving right along with the plan.
“I do see the mindset of the public at large in this valley as generally wanting recycling and wanting to do their part, whether the reasons are not wanting to fill landfills or to reduce carbon emissions,” says Goitiandia.