For many, January is a time to plan for the year ahead, make resolutions and start new habits. This may work for some, but I prefer to use January as a time to reflect on the previous year and recognize what worked, what can be improved for the year to come and what can be left firmly in the past (I’m looking at YOU, single-use plastics). Rather than pressure oneself to plan out the best possible year, I think it is more helpful to look back at what you were proud of over the last 12 months and see how you can continue that into the next 12. With that, I would like to take a moment to look back at 2022 and celebrate our waste reduction successes so that we can go into 2023 ready to continue and build upon amazing collaboration between TVCR, Teton County and RAD Curbside.
In 2022, Teton County was able to stay on par with previous years’ diversion rates even with the significant increase in materials coming into the Transfer Station. In total, Teton County processed 17,283 tons (about 16% more than 2021) of material and 64% of that was sent to the landfill. Therefore, 36% of materials were recycled, reused, or diverted to the Construction & Demolition pit. Transfer Station Supervisor, Dann O’Donnell, has hopes that 5% of the material in the C&D pit can be mined and crushed for use by Road & Bridge or reused on site.
This year saw about a 66% increase in construction debris at the Transfer Station. Given that much of this material came through unsorted, that posed a large problem for both the Transfer Station and RAD who is hauling the materials to the landfill. Because unsorted construction material takes up more room in loads due to wood holding up materials and creating air pockets, this resulted in an increase in trips to the landfill. RAD and the team at the Transfer Station worked collaboratively to make sure there was always an extra truck to load so that the floor of the green building could stay as clear as possible throughout the day and allow the Transfer Station to run smoothly for everyone.
Luckily, in 2022, TVCR won an $80,000 Idaho DEQ Grant on behalf of the County to build a C&D Sorting Pad at the Transfer Station in order to alleviate the burden of the material and increase the amount that can be diverted from the landfill. The hope is that this sorting pad will decrease the amount of construction debris sent to the landfill by about 75%. Given the amount of construction happening across our Valley, this is a huge number.
And even better news for all our salvagers out there, the C&D sorting pad will allow Transfer Station staff to better sort lumber and scrap metal into more manageable piles. This will result in more salvageable material and opportunity for local reuse! We are pursuing even more federal grant money in 2023 to improve our recycling infrastructure at the Transfer Station and purchase equipment to allow for increased reuse of materials that would otherwise be buried in the C&D pit or sent to the landfill.
We are excited to announce that in 2023, Teton County will be adding a new material to its list of recycled materials! Thanks to a deal brokered by TVCR between the County and NexTrex, the Transfer Station will be baling plastic film to be recycled into Trex material. RAD Curbside will begin collecting business plastic film and eventually plastic bags from their curbside customers once the program is up and running. TVCR will continue to collect plastic film from community members and we are happy that it will now be able to be recycled locally! Stay tuned for more information on this program as we begin rolling it out in the first few months of 2023.
With all this in mind, the Board & Staff at TVCR are working on our Strategic Plan in order to address waste reduction across our entire community. We know that by working collaboratively with other nonprofits and businesses, advocating for diversion at the County level, and educating our entire community about how each individual can reduce waste, we can continue to help Teton Valley stay the beautiful place we are lucky enough to call home.