This article was originally printed in Teton Valley News on July 5, 2012.
As a child, I spent Saturday mornings scouring the lawns of student apartments picking up aluminum cans. A local recycler paid me about 5 cents a pound for my treasure, and recycling became my first job. I still work in recycling, but a lot has changed since my scavenging days. Today, we can recycle a lot more than aluminum, and we don’t have to take our recyclables directly to a trader. We can drop off recyclables at the transfer station, or opt for curbside pickup. An increased environmental ethic has decreased the likelihood of finding lawns littered with cans. One thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that recycling is a lucrative business.
In Teton Valley, waste is collected at the transfer station and transported to the Mud Lake landfill, where we must pay to dispose of it. A typical truckload of garbage costs $700 to $800 in waste disposal fees, plus about $520 more in fuel and transportation expenses. All waste that is diverted from the landfill reduces the costs of waste disposal, whether it is recycled or not. Proceeds from the sales of recyclables are reinvested in recycling jobs and infrastructure.
Take cardboard, for example. In February, the county’s first truckload of cardboard was shipped to a recycler, saving the county $1330 in disposal fees and earning $2,607 in revenue. While the first truckload of 44 bales took six months to collect, 88 bales were gathered in the next four months. At that rate, the county will save and earn around $23,600 a year from cardboard recycling alone. Metal is even more lucrative than cardboard due to the high costs of mining. In 2011, the county made over $123,000 from the sale of its scrap metal and aluminum and steel cans.
Recycling is a smart choice for businesses, too. When the Victor Gateway Station signed up for cardboard recycling pickup through RAD Recycling, they got rid of one of their three dumpsters, and reduced trash pickup from three times a week to twice weekly. Through cardboard recycling alone, they realized a savings of at least $210 a month after paying for RAD’s pickup service.
Individuals can save money, too, either through reduced pickup service or reduced fees at the transfer station. A family that generates a mere 5 bags of trash a week will pay about $260 a year to drop off their waste at the transfer station. Recycling aluminum, glass, paper, tin cans, cardboard, and plastic bottles can reduce household waste by over 30%. Composting food and yard waste eliminates another 25% or more. The same family now pays only $117 a year for waste disposal, and spends less time hauling their trash around.
Reducing, reusing and recycling saves money for individuals, businesses, and governments. Unfortunately, county residents currently divert less than 13% of our waste from the landfill, well below the national average of 34.1%. Let’s stop throwing away valuable resources and start recycling – it makes “cents”!
Information for this article came from Teton County Solid Waste and Recycling (statistics about county waste disposal costs and recycling revenue), Joni McCracken at Victor Gateway Station, and the US EPA (general recycling statistics).