This article was originally published in the Teton Valley News on June 4, 2015. It is republished with permission.
Admittedly, even as a devoted recycler since childhood, when I started working for Teton Valley Community Recycling (TVCR) five months ago, I was surprised to learn about how many things can be recycled locally in Teton Valley. Though I’ve been a member of TVCR and lived in Victor for many years now, our family has been taking much of our recycling over the hill to Jackson, and we weren’t aware of the great progress that TVCR, our transfer station, county officials, and a handful of local businesses have made in regards to making recycling easier and expanding the amount of recyclable products accepted in Teton Valley. Life is busy, and convenience and accessibility is a driving force for most of us. I was also unaware of the fact that recycling at our transfer station didn’t really take off until TVCR helped the county with grant funds and donations to purchase a recycling baler in 2011 (think of “Wall-E”—the trash compactor and sorter). In those early days of county-run recycling, 13% of our community’s waste was diverted from the landfill (which was a great accomplishment since community-wide recycling was literally started from the ground up by local activists and dedicated volunteers). In just three years, our county increased the waste diversion rate to 28% —this is a fantastic success story, and kudos to Teton County Solid Waste and Recycling, local officials, TVCR, volunteers, and local recyclers for making this happen. Of note, the national waste diversion average is around 33%, meaning that two-thirds of waste generated from Americans is not recycled or diverted from the landfill through either composting or reuse. Oh, how far we have come since the first days of recycling in Teton Valley; yet there is much potential for additional waste reduction and recycling in our community.
TVCR has worked for over fifteen years to implement and expand recycling and waste reduction programs in Teton Valley. Even though modern-day recycling has prevailed for decades in the U.S. and is a significant contributor to job creation and economic development, recycling drop-off and curbside pick-up in Teton Valley is still relatively new. Other diversion programs, like our county’s new green waste composting program, are helping to reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill located 50 miles away in Jefferson County.