(Hint: None of the items in these pictured orange painted bins gets recycled. Why are they collecting it, you may wonder? To prevent contamination of the materials that actually are recyclable in our region!)
There’s no question that recycling can be very confusing, especially because it varies from region to region based on a variety of factors including available end markets, storage space, facility capacity, economics, and ideology of a given community. Plastics in particularly can be very confusing, but even the simpler items have some subtle details that, if we know them, can help us “recycle right” in Teton County, Idaho.
The best person to talk to in any community is the Recycling Center or Solid Waste staff who actually collect and process the recyclables. Most municipalities also have information about Accepted Materials on a website or flyer, but an important rule of thumb with recycling is “IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!” “Wish-cycling” recyclers actually do far more harm than good by tossing something they hope will be recycled into a bin rather than strictly following a community’s guidelines. Here is a link to a simple, printable guide to ACCEPTED MATERIALS FOR TETON COUNTY.
We’d like to share a detailed breakdown of what is accepted in Teton County, Idaho, and why some of the Collection Bins are Painted Orange.
Here’s the list in order of “recyclability”
For RAD Curbside Customers, click here for details on what is collected curbside, although it matches all of the “traditional” recycling items listed below, but not the “specialty” recycling or sorted waste.
ALUMINUM BEVERAGE CANS (Soda, Beer, etc.) – Aluminum can be recycled again and again without degrading in quality. It is also one of the most valuable commodities which largely supports much of the other recycling endeavors. Please ensure your aluminum beverage cans are empty. You can crush them or leave them intact
(Note: if recycling in Teton Co, WY cans should not be crushed for their optical sorter) Rinsing them clean is a nice touch, but not essential. Aluminum beverage cans with plastic labels, typically microbrews, are recyclable as is since they are a small percentage of overall aluminum cans and don’t exceed the threshhold for contamination.
ALL OTHER METAL CANS AND ALL SCRAP METAL (INCLUDING APPLIANCES)
Metal is valuable because it is infinitely recyclable, but here’s what you need to know. People use the terms tin and steel interchangeably. 1) Food cans should be rinsed in our county because it takes many months (typically annually) before scrap metal is sold. Food contaminated cans emit odors and attract vermin (yellow jackets, rodents, etc.) which makes for a truly unpleasant work environment for staff. 2) Teton Co. Idaho prefers that aluminum cat food cans go in with the steel cans as they are a lower quality than pure aluminum beverage containers (soda, beer). 3) A can is steel if a magnet will stick to it. Coconut water and any other can that a magnet can stick to is a steel can. All other metals get mixed into the scrap pile including old nails, hardware, appliances, vehicles, wires, string lights, and more Propane cylinders must be completely empty.
CLEAN, DRY CORRUGATED CARDBOARD AND PAPER BAGS
Corrugated cardboard, the stuff pictured above with the wavy inside, can be recycled about 5 to 7 times before the fibers become too weak to use, however there are a lot of caveats with recycling cardboard: It must be 1) dry (meaning never wet even if it is dry at the time of recycling; damp fibers grow mildew/mold and make the whole batch worthless) 2) clean (no food, grease, excessive tape, staples), 3) not grayboard (e.g. cereal/snack boxes, beverage six packs, etc.) – all grayboard is landfilled. 4) Brown grocery bags are accepted in the cardboard; brown packing paper goes with mixed paper. What’s NOT accepted? NO egg cartons (reuse them! see below); NO cereal boxes/grayboard: NO waxy boxes; NO excessive tape and/or staples; NO wet cardboard; NO moldy cardboard.
CLEAN, DRY MIXED PAPER (Newspaper, Office Paper, Packing paper)
While using less paper and switching to digital content can help reduce a lot of your paper waste, you’ll still likely have a bin full every month. Teton County Idaho is no longer trying to separate newpaper from office paper. While the purchase price is much higher for separating these commodities, our small mountain town just doesn’t produce the quantities needed to keep these fibers moving out in a timely matter so they don’t get damp or degraded. By mixing all paper fibers (newsprint and office paper and packing paper) in one bin, more of the material can actually be recycled, just at a lower price point for the county. What’s NOT allowed in this mix? NO Shredded paper; NO metal staples/paperclips; NO glossy catalogs/magazines that are not part of a newspaper publication: NO sticky notes; NO receipts (BPA), NO construction paper or glossy laminates, NO gift wrap.)
While glass is infinitely recyclable, you need to be near one of the few glass recycling facilities to make it financially and environmentally viable to recycle. In Teton County, glass is not recycled back into new glass bottles, rather it is REUSED on site by crushing all collected glass and spreading it as road surface and for dust abatement at the Transfer Station. Some of the crushed glass has also been used for local pathways projects like the Teton Corridor Pathway. Reusing glass locally is the most environmentally and economically sound disposal method for this inert material.
CLEAN PLASTIC BOTTLES – #1 PETE (e.g. water and soda bottles)
Clean #1 PETE plastic bottles without lids are recyclable. Because these plastics take quite a while to be shipped out, the County asks that bottles be “clean enough that you would drink out of it”. Bottles that are not rinsed and have sticky liquid residue get a one-way ticket to the landfill. Please take the time to remove the lids and rinse your bottles if you want them to be recycled in our rural area with minimal processing equipment. What’s NOT accepted? Any other shape of #1 plastic. READ MORE as to why a #1 is NOT a recyclable #1.
CLEAN PLASTIC BOTTLES – #2 HDPE (e.g. milk jugs, laundry bottles, etc.)
Clean #2 HDPE plastic bottles without lids are recyclable. Because these plastics take quite a while to be shipped out, the County asks that bottles be “clean enough that you would drink out of it”. Bottles that are not rinsed and have sticky liquid residue get a one-way ticket to the landfill. Please take the time to remove the lids and rinse your bottles if you want them to be recycled in our rural area with minimal processing equipment. What’s NOT accepted? Bottles with soap/shampoo/oil residue. Milk bottles that have not been rinsed. Any kind of oil bottles (motor oil, cooking oil, etc) because the oil doesn’t come off with rinsing.
Batteries used to be an item the County could sell or at least offload to processors free of charge. Now, however, the markets have changed and it costs the County to properly recycle batteries. We believe it is critical to keep these items out of the landfill due to the chemicals that can leach into the environment. Used batteries can be brought to the Transfer Station bins in front of the green building, picked up by RAD Curbside for recycling customers (put in a jar or baggie), or dropped off at TVCR’s convenient battery recycling locations (Broulim’s, Ace Hardware, Valley Lumber, or our TerraCycle locations). These batteries should be loose – no packaging or baggies. The exception is with Lithium-ion batteries (e.g. rechargeable tool and phone batteries) which should have a piece of tape over the terminals to prevent accidental fires.
ELECTRONIC WASTE (old laptops, electrical devices, tvs, phones, etc.)
Some electronics can be refurbished. The Makerspace kids like to tinker with some electronics. All other e-waste can be brought to the e-waste trailer by the recycling bins at the Transfer Station. RAD Curbside will accept small electronics from recycling customers if contacted to schedule pick up. Staples stores will recycle small electronics and printer ink jets and may even give you store credit. What’s not accepted: Tube TVs, old computer tube monitors.
Tires are recycled, however since it costs the County to have these transported and processed, there is a small fee per tire. Each spring the Mosquito Abatement District helps fund a free tire collection day during Reduced Fee Day at the Transfer Station as abandoned tires are prime habitat for mosquito larvae.
USED MOTOR OIL
Used motor oil can be poured into the collection tanks near the green building. Currently it costs the County to dispose of used motor oil, however they are looking into the possibility of a used motor oil burner to heat the Recycling Center in winter months rather than transporting it for disposal.
Other Sorted Material : YARD WASTE, SCRAP METAL, SCRAP LUMBER, ANIMAL CARCASSES, MANURE
These items are all considered “Sorted Waste” at the Transfer Station and incur a significantly lower disposal fee than “Unsorted Waste” Please take the time to sort your yard waste and animal waste/carcasses for composting on site. Scrap metal of all kinds is sold to the highest bidder each year. Scrap Lumber is available for local reuse via the “Salvage Fridays” program. Read more about Accepted C&D Sorted Materials and associated fees.
Note: Some items are not eligible for salvage and must go to the landfill including insulation, carpet and carpet pads, drywall, linoleum, mixed materials, and other construction waste. See the list of “Unsorted Materials”
NOT COLLECTED AT THE TRANSFER STATION, BUT VIA COLLECTED BY TVCR DIRECTLY
TVCR fills the gap of collected some additional “non-traditional” recycling items either year round or seasonally to help our community properly dispose of waste.
PLASTIC FILM – Collected at MD Nursery in the Shed behind the main greenhouse
TERRACYCLE SPECIALTY RECYCLING COLLECTIONS – Collected at the Geo Center and General Laundry
We also collected used egg cartons for the Food Pantry at our Geo Center location.
WHAT IS NOT RECYCLED LOCALLY – AND WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH IT INSTEAD
The Orange Bins at the Transfer Station are intended to keep materials out of the cardboard, paper, and plastic.
NO MAGAZINES/NO CATALOGS/NO GLOSSY PUBLICATIONS
While there is an end market for magazines, Teton County just doesn’t produce enough volume to move magazines prior to being affected by moisture. Glossy publications can be recycled over in Jackson at any of the eight drop off sites. Additionally school art teachers sometimes like to use old magazines and catalogs for collages. Consider reading magazines online or share a subscription with a neighbor or the library. Cancel unwanted catalogs.
All books put in the bin at the Transfer Station are landfilled. Try to donate books to local libraries or little free libraries if they are in good condition. Wet, damaged, or no longer relevant books should be landfilled. Here are 20 places to donate books.
NO PHONE BOOKS
Phone books can be recycled in Jackson. You can try to opt out of some phone books, but that isn’t always possible in our area. The phone companies think you can give these to hotels for reuse.
NO ALUMINUM PIE PLATES/NO ALUMINUM FOIL
These items can be recycled in Jackson, but not in our county. Try to use reusable pie dishes and covers likes “Bees Wrap” whenever possible. Used aluminum foil can be an effective dish scrubber if it is food contaminated. Clean foil can be reused or recycled in Jackson.
NO GREYBOARD (aka box board, cereal boxes, etc.)
While the Paper Council says this material is recyclable, in Teton County it is not. Grayboard fibers are too short to be effectively recycled, so the material is at the end of its life. This low grade fiber can be composted or used as fire starter. Landfill is your other option. Here are some fun upcycling craft ideas.
NO PLASTIC FOOD CONTAINERS
These plastic food clamshells are not recyclable anywhere in our region, even though they have the #1 code on them. Throw them in the trash – or better yet, avoid using them whenever possible. Buy berries in season at a farmers market; bring your own leftover dish when you go out. Reuse for other purposes if possible, but NEVER toss in with the plastic bottles.
HOUSEHOLD HAZARDOUS WASTE
All Household Hazardous Waste must be disposed of at the Recycling Center in Jackson Wyoming by appointment two days per month between April and October. Teton County Idaho will reimburse each resident up to $150 per year by bringing your receipt to the Transfer Station Scalehouse. Read more for a list of Household Hazardous Waste.
Mattresses are landfilled in our county, however the Jackson WY Transfer Station will properly recycle mattresses and box springs for a small fee ($27/item) if you’d like to ensure the materials get reused rather than landfilled.
Currently Teton County Idaho does not have a Food Waste Composting program, however TVCR strongly encourages well maintained backyard compost piles to drastically reduce your waste and keep valuable nutrients out of the landfill. TVCR still has a few free wire compost bins if you are interested, please contact us! If you don’t have a compost pile, we encourage you to find a willing neighbor or farm to take your food waste. Sharewaste is one avenue to find local composters.
Please use the printable flyers below for household reference.
Still have questions? Please use the TVCR Recycling Textline 208-557-1193
Accepted Recycling Printable Flyer Accepted C&D Sorted Waste Printable Flyer
Accepted Plastic Film at TVCR Plastic Shed Current TerraCycle Accepted Items