This article was published in the Teton Valley News on January 7, 2016. It is republished with permission.
Since our inception in 1997, TVCR has transitioned from a grassroots organization with a primary purpose to start recycling in Teton Valley, to now an education, research, and regionally focused waste diversion organization. Throughout this transition, one need has remained constant—recycling education and outreach, even for dedicated recyclers.
Take for example, plastics recycling. While an item may have a recycling symbol on it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it can actually be recycled locally. Most plastics (in particular, #3-7) have a very limited market and almost no domestic markets, so ultimately these plastics typically end up in the landfill. Teton County, ID, and our counterparts in Teton County, WY, do not recycle #3-7 plastics and #1 and #2 fruit and lettuce bins because the markets for these low-grade materials are very limited and not economically sustainable at this time. So while a recycler may have great intentions by putting a #5 yogurt container or #1 lettuce bin in the plastic #1 and #2 (bottles only) recycling bins, unfortunately, this mixing of non-recyclable content is considered contamination and it lowers the sellable value of the materials.
This brings me to the most common question that I receive from community members—“What items can be recycled in Teton Valley?” Answering this is especially poignant after the holidays, when many of us have accumulated more trash than normal. Located in Driggs on Cemetery Road, the Teton County Transfer Station currently accepts corrugated cardboard, aluminum cans, tin cans, glass, #1 and #2 plastic bottles, mixed paper (office paper, newspaper, magazines and catalogues, and phone books), and grey board (e.g., cereal and cracker boxes). Residents and visitors can drop off recyclables and other sorted waste (like your Christmas trees and wreaths) for FREE during public hours (Tuesday-Friday 8am-3pm or Saturday 8am-1pm). You can also pay for curbside pickup for traditional recyclables through RAD Curbside.
The transfer station also accepts a number of non-traditional recyclables like batteries, inkjet cartridges, cell phones, computers, and other electronic waste at the scale house. Scrap metal, wire, wood, brush, yard waste, and inert fill and manure goes in the piles to the east of the scale house. Used motor oil is collected at the north end of the white recycling tent. Broulim’s Supermarket collects and recycles plastic bags, and the Fall River Rural Electric Cooperative accepts compact fluorescent lightbulbs.
Our local transfer station does not currently accept hazardous waste, but residents of Teton County, ID can take their household hazardous waste (HHW) to the Teton County, WY Household Hazardous Waste Facility in Jackson and get reimbursed up to $150 per year per person if you bring back your receipt to our transfer station. Curious about what constitutes hazardous waste and how to dispose of it properly? On Wednesday, January 13th, TVCR and RAD Curbside will be featured guests as part of Friends of the Teton River’s popular WaterWise Series with their next installment, “You DUMP it, You DRINK it!” at the soon-to-be-open Tatanka Tavern on the 3rd floor of the Colter Building in downtown Driggs from 4:30-6PM. At the event, you can learn how to protect Teton Valley’s drinking water from household hazardous waste contamination by playing a fun, all-ages trivia game. More info about HHW and how to dispose of and recycle it properly is located on Teton County, ID’s Solid Waste and Recycling Webpage.
Last but not least, due to our community’s small population size, remote location, and limited financial resources, our local recycling collection is classified as “sorted stream recycling.” With this system, we depend on recyclers and manual labor by county employees to help keep recyclables sorted and free of contaminants. Many larger municipalities, like the Denver metro area, have the resources to send recyclable materials to MRF’s (Materials Recovery Facilities), where mixed recyclable items are processed and sorted by machinery based on the size, shape, and weight of the materials. This is known as “single stream recycling.” While we are working towards making recycling easier for everyone, we thank you ahead of time for recycling and disposing of your sorted and hazardous waste responsibly! TVCR has learned that waste reduction and recycling cannot exist as a stand-alone operation, nor is a one-size-fits all operation appropriate for Teton Valley. Rather, waste reduction, reuse, and recycling must be integrated with a well-managed and community-driven waste program. We all need to continue to help educate everyone about what can and cannot be recycled in our area. Thank you for your efforts!
Jen Werlin is the Executive Director of Teton Valley Community Recycling. For more information about waste reduction, reuse, and recycling, and/or to become involved with our community-wide efforts to reduce litter and landfill waste, please visit tetonrecycling.org.