Teton Valley Community Recycling attended the Idaho Solid Waste Association conference in Lewiston, Idaho on September 12 and 13, touring transfer stations, C&D pits and compost sites and learning from other counties and cities what is working and not working for them on the solid waste and recycling front. If there was on thing we learned while in the north country, there is so much more we can do at the base of the Tetons on behalf of solid waste and waste diversion.
I was issued a speeding ticket somewhere very north of here on my way to my first Idaho Solid Waste Association conference in Lewiston, Idaho a week ago.
And that was just the beginning of a very surprising two days in the north country. As I write this message to you, I’m still surprised to admit that the ISWA meeting was fascinating — I know! Can you believe I just said that?
Truth is, I’m still baby stepping my way through the world of solid waste and waste diversion. Sure, sure, I’ve been recycling since before my hometown in Pittsburgh had curbside in 1991, but to understand a fraction of the industry on a variety of levels — economic, environmental, socially responsible, community minded — was more than I excepted from a two day-er along the Snake River from my temporary base at the Best Western.
The Lewiston conference brought together a solid group of government agencies, solid waste professionals, recycling advocates and industry leaders for an intensive look at what’s working for communities like ours in the rural west. We toured an industrial composting site, transfer stations, construction and demolition sites and landfills. We ate Thai food (oh, how we have been spoiled by the Thai food here in Teton Valley) and then we went back to tour household hazardous waste facilities and wood piles the size of the Corner Drug.
I was encouraged to find that Teton County, Idaho is emerging as a state leader in all things solid waste and recycling. The very idea that Teton County adopted a Waste Diversion Plan speaks volumes to other communities who are far from adopting policies that, at the very least, would impact taxpayers where it often matters the most — their checkbooks.
The most headline grabbing change our community has seen with regard to the Waste Diversion Plan is that which requires any waste hauler that Teton County contracts with to provide curbside recycling. But, like I wrote in my first letter to you, the opportunities are endless. And with the creative and knowledgeable county staff working on our behalf, I’m excited to see more tangible change on the horizon.
The state of Idaho is broken up into 5 health districts. The health departments regulate solid waste facilities in Idaho. The Department of Environmental Quality oversees the initial permitting and closure, but day-to-day operating plans are approved and managed by the health districts. The ISWA board is set up to have a public and private sector representative from each of the health districts. Teton County’s Saul Varela, Solid Waste Supervisor was elected the as the public board member from District 5 at the September ISWA conference. Saul is pictured here on the left next to Todd Nichols, foreman for the Teton County Transfer Station, during a tour of an industrial composting site in Lewiston.
Teton Valley Community Recycling has been meeting with Teton County to discuss how the nonprofit can assist the government’s efforts in better waste management. In addition to attending the Council of Governments meetings and the Idaho Solid Waste Association conference in Lewiston, with the Solid Waste Manager Saul Varela and Transfer Station Forman Todd Nichols. TVCR also met with Varela one-on-one at the Transfer Station to assess needs on the ground.
There a few areas that TVCR can start working on immediately that align with the Waste Diversion Plan. Construction and Demolition is the one area where needs could be addressed sooner rather than later.
According to Varela, “C&D is low hanging fruit. The more you take the time to sort the C&D, the more you save the taxpayer.”
The Waste Diversion Plan states:
- Teton County currently only requires permits for new construction over 200 square feet and does not require any permits for demolition or remodeling. The individual towns within the county have their own permitting processes. Requirements built into the permitting process will only affect a small percentage of construction projects unless the cities adopt similar policies.
- This strategy would probably only apply to large contractors and would not impact diversion rates from smaller home renovation projects.
- Fines are unpopular. Focusing on the cost-savings of diversion can make mandates more palatable.
- It may also be easier to collect fees for non-compliance if builders must pay it up front to get their permit (in deposit programs) than to collect them later.
- The final consideration for recycling and diversion mandates is the penalty for non-compliance. The penalty must be steep enough to compel contractors to comply. However, if the diversion rate and penalty are set too high, the ordinance will be criticized for slowing economic growth. Finding balance is the key to a successful program. Chicago fines contractors $1,000 for each percentage point between the mandate and actual diversion for projects over 10,000 square feet, and $500 for each percentage point for projects under 10,000 square feet. Contractors must complete the paperwork documenting diversion and have an affidavit signed by the waste hauler or recycler stating that the reported diversion rate is true. Designating different penalties for large and small projects prevents the policy from putting a disproportionate burden on small businesses that inhibits competition. Charging per percentage point encourages contractors to divert as much as possible, whereas a simple fine for non-The final consideration for recycling and diversion mandates is the penalty for non-compliance. The penalty must be steep enough to compel contractors to comply. However, if the diversion rate and penalty are set too high, the ordinance will be criticized for slowing economic growth. Finding balance is the key to a successful program. Chicago fines contractors $1,000 for each percentage point between the mandate and actual diversion for projects over 10,000 square feet, and $500 for each percentage point for projects under 10,000 square feet. Contractors must complete the paperwork documenting diversion and have an affidavit signed by the waste hauler or recycler stating that the reported diversion rate is true. Designating different penalties for large and small projects prevents the policy from putting a disproportionate burden on small businesses that inhibits competition. Charging per percentage point encourages contractors to divert as much as possible, whereas a simple fine for non-compliance could lead some contractors to choose to pay the fine rather than risk putting time and effort into diversion and still coming up short. Fining per percentage point makes the fine for complete non-compliance too high, and rewards all contractors for their efforts while giving them the flexibility to pay if the effort to achieve the final percentage points is too difficult.
It has been suggested by Valera and reinforced by County Engineer Darryl Johnson that a policy could be implemented that would require contractors to pay a deposit prior to a project. If the contractor chooses to sort, they get the deposit back, if not, the county keeps the deposit. This of course is a very simple explanation.
- TVCR will research similar municipalities that have a C&D policy that provides incentive for contractors to sort.
- TVCR will look to produce an informational pamphlet for contractors (and the public) in the hopes of educating contractors on the cost benefits of sorting.
- TVCR will then meet with local contractors – also need to tell the stories of local contractors who sort and why they sort. Currently 20 percent of C&D is from local contractors.
This is a good time to start working on this policy and education piece with the construction season slowing down heading into winter.
Additionally, TVCR recognizes the the need for the surrounding communities to be meeting and sharing information with one another. The Department of Environmental Quality directed TVCR to meet with Eastern Idaho Public Health’s Kellye Eager, Director of Environmental Health. I’ll have an update for you in our next newsletter.
The next ISWA conference is March 14-16, 2017 in Boise. The fall conference will be hosted in Teton County. This is a great opportunity for our community and TVCR should work to roll out the red carpet when that conference rolls around. We should consider public education as part of this conference especially with so many solid waste and recycling people from around the state staying in town.
Stay tuned. Things are about to get exciting! And I’m not just talking about my court date. I paid the speeding fine.
– Jeannette Boner, executive director, Teton Valley Community Recyling