On March 20, Teton Valley Community Recycling received the exciting news that the Community Foundation of Teton Valley awarded us our full competitive grant request of $3,450 to purchase eight used recycling dumpsters from Valley Lumber and Rental to be used at the Teton County Transfer Station in an attempt to reduce contamination of the community recycling bins. TVCR staff and board are extremely grateful for the continued support from the Community Foundation for this and other projects that make our valley a better place to live. We look forward to the awards ceremony on April 5 (and the grant check since we already bought the bins and got them out to the Transfer Station as soon as we got the OK!) Here’s to a reduction in contaminants in 2018!! Below is an excerpt from the grant explaining why these bins are so badly needed.
“Recycling is growing in popularity in Teton Valley. Residents and visitors alike take advantage of free recycling drop-off at Teton County’s Transfer Station. Unfortunately, we are seeing increasing contamination by well-intentioned people who throw non-recyclable waste into the recycling bins. In the past, buyers were willing to accept up to 5% contamination. Starting January 2018, changes in China’s import policy have caused a tightening of acceptable contamination to 0.5%. TVCR has been working hard to educate the public through news articles, social media, and clear signage, but recycling is not entirely straightforward. Both visitors and residents are confused about which plastics and cardboard products can be recycled. When in doubt, they toss it all into the recycling bins contaminating the entire load. People WANT to recycle everything, even if our remote county cannot. Part-time residents and tourists who are accustomed to larger, urban recycling programs aggravate the problem. The four biggest contamination issues are:
- Plastic food containers dumped into the #1 and #2 plastic bottle collection
- “Grayboard” (cereal boxes, etc.) dumped into corrugated cardboard and mixed paper
- Plastic trash bags left in the yard waste/composting pile
- Sharp metal pieces discarded on the ground
Transfer station staff must remove all contaminants by hand wasting valuable time and taxpayer dollars to keep bales clean and marketable. This January our first contaminated paper load was rejected at a potential cost of ~$2700 to taxpayers. Contamination may also result in entire loads of recyclables being dumped into the landfill.
Photo of 4 of the 8 dumpsters Teton Valley Community Recycling just bought with the Community Foundation of Teton Valley Competitive Grant, delivered to the Transfer Station on Thursday March 22.
To date, the most effective solution we have tried is offering the recycling community convenient alternate depositories for non-recyclable items so they don’t have to choose between taking them back home or contaminating the recycling. Transfer station staff have had great success with placing collection dumpsters clearly marked “grayboard’ or “food containers” next to the recycling bins. This allows recyclers to easily dispose of items that they thought were recyclable but aren’t, without contaminating sellable commodities. Unfortunately, the existing bins are too few, too small, and are in poor condition, making the whole recycling drop-off area look unprofessional. Some are also broken and can’t be easily moved with a forklift.
This project is part of a three-prong approach to combating contamination:
- Creating a “Recycling in Teton Valley” Video for visitors and residents (pending grant funding),
- Continuing active education campaigns via newspaper, flyers, and social media
- Purchasing “sorting dumpsters” to solve the problem on site.
This portion of the project is likely to have the most profound and immediate impact to a potentially costly and urgent problem. We want recycling to be easy and rewarding for everyone involved. If it becomes too expensive or cumbersome for the county to manage recycling due to rejected loads, the recycling program itself becomes imperiled. Community education, outreach, and clear signs only go so far to change behavior. People respond best to convenient opportunities to do the right thing. We strive to make recycling as effortless and successful as possible for all stakeholders in Teton Valley in a cost-effective way.”