Update to Accepted Traditional Recyclable Materials in Teton County Idaho — Changes in How to Recycle, What Materials are Accepted and Why Changes have Occurred
Our Teton Valley community has been exceptional at increasing its diverted and recycled materials. However, recycling has recently changed. Specifically the acceptable material types and the cleanliness of each material have been updated. These changes are NOT the doing of Teton County Idaho or RAD. Acceptable traditional recyclable materials are different now because both the global and national recycling industry are going through growing pains and this has impacted the Teton Valley Idaho’s method of recycling. The entities that buy and process recyclable materials from Teton County Idaho are dictating the changes in what can be recycled and how clean the materials need to be. If the buyers’ new guidelines are not followed by Teton County Idaho, materials may not be accepted, recycled or paid for. With the current recyclable materials market situation, buyers can be picky about who they buy from so we just need to have clean recyclable materials to give to them.
This scenario stemmed from China stopping import of U.S. recyclables in 2017. They did this because there was too much contamination in it, and they had too much overall volume. China made it public that they were going to stop importing U.S. recyclables in ~2010 with the “Green Shield” policy and then enacted the cutoff in ~2017 with what is referred to as “Green Sword.” This immediately dropped the value of the U.S.’s recyclable materials. The value drop was also due to a minimal number of domestic recyclable material processors. The demand to want to recycle in the U.S. remains strong, but the infrastructure and ability to process the materials is low. Some Teton County Transfer Station processing system & infrastructure limitations that have caused the elimination of recycling some materials in Teton Valley. For example, magazines and catalogs are no longer accepted as a recyclable since the material (currently!) has low market demand and value. These are fibrous materials and must be stored in a dry, covered space to be considered sellable. The current problem is that the Teton County Transfer Station’s Recycling Center does not have enough storage space due to the overall increased volume of diverted materials .
The value of recycling may not be its profitability. Recycling in Teton Valley Idaho has:
1) Created Local Jobs
2) Reduced the volume of landfilled waste
3) Created the demand for higher volume/more efficient processing equipment.
Thus far, Teton County has been doing a great job in reinvesting any cost-savings associated with recycling back into its processing system and passing it back to the resident. This statement is in reference to the sale of recyclable material vs. processing costs of each material (net financial value of recycling). The reinvestment increasing the staff and upgrading equipment to maximize the waste that can be diverted and recycled. For example, the recently purchased baler can manage a higher volume of material, more safely and more efficiently. The volume of recyclable materials today could not be well-managed with the old baler.
“Processing Cost” is often overlooked when talking about the financial value of recycling, specifically the sale of baled recyclables. Processing costs include collection bins at the transfer station, onsite weighing and transitioning to the recycling center, decontamination, baling each material, using equipment to move the bales, storing the bales, moving the bales onto a truck, and then transporting the materials to a processor. These operations are labor intensive which can become expensive if done inefficiently. The market value of baled materials is often lower than the expenses, therefore, most materials have a negative net value. Several materials do have a positive net value, such as steel and aluminum, which balance the financial sustainability of the overall recycling operations and provide the cost-savings to legitimize the equipment upgrades or additional labor.
An often unrecognized value associated with diverting materials from being landfilled is “Landfilling Liability.” Teton Valley residents experienced the realization of “landfill liability” to the amount of over $3,000,000 when the local landfill was closed, capped and now monitor for 30 years. Teton County budgets approximately $25,000 per year, however if a monitor well spikes past permitted levels, and remediation is necessary, costs could be in the $100,000s. Additionally Teton County residents remain liable for the materials landfilled at Circular Butte (Mud Lake). Therefore, if remediation is required at that site, we would have to pay costs associated with the percentage of tons Teton County contributed.
Today’s recyclable material market is asking to provide cleaner and more separated traditional recyclables, hence the new guidelines per material type at Teton County Idaho’s Transfer Station:
Click Here to Download the 2.24.20 Acceptable Materials Flyer
Guidelines: Empty & Rinse
What happens to the material: Sold to Highest Bidder in Market, recycled into new aluminum products
Guidelines: Empty & Rinse. Throw out lids as they are sharp and therefore dangerous
What happens to the material: Sold to market with the scrap metal pile, recycled into new steel products
Guidelines: Remove lids. Empty & Rinse
What happens to the material: Glass diverted at the transfer station is crushed down and used as subgrade material for roadways on the County transfer station campus.
Guidelines: Keep Dry. Collection in a closeable plastic jar or bag
What happens to the material: Sold to market
*Non-Accepted Metal Materials
Examples of not currently accepted metals: foil, pie plates or aluminum pans
#1 & #2 Plastic Bottles
#1 Plastic Bottles
#2 Plastic Bottles
Must be bottle shaped (neck narrower than body)
Must remove all caps and lids (they go in the trash)
Empty & Rinse well enough you would drink out of the bottle
Non-bottle shaped plastics such as lids/caps, wrap, bags, tubs or clamshells
No Dirty bottles
No #3-#7 plastics
*Clamshell Plastic bins at the transfer station are landfilled, they are there to avoid the clamshells from being put into the corrugated cardboard
Must be Dry
Must be Free of any inserts and coupon flyers
Office Paper (really just white copy paper)
Must be Dry
Must be Free of any contaminants
NO Packing Paper
NO Windowed Envelopes
NO Paper Bags
NO Shredded Paper
NO Paper Clips
Junk Mail with Film Laminated to Paper
What happens to the material: (currently and subject to change) Sold to a hydroseed company that pulpifies the materials and integrates seeds to the mix.
Must be corrugated (tear the side, needs to have a wavy interior)
Must be Dry
Must be free of any other type of material and/or packing materials
Cereal boxes and greyboard
No carton or separators
No waxy boxes
No egg cartons
*Greyboard bins at the transfer station are landfilled, they are there to avoid the greyboard from being put into the corrugated cardboard
Continuing to recycle may be best done by re-starting small. Recycling fewer materials while following the new guidelines. A basic and manageable set of materials to recycle the correct way and has the least confusion and guidelines may be corrugated cardboard, glass, batteries, aluminum cans & tin cans.
A local resident recently posted on social media, “The recycling center in Driggs is a privilege. If your intention to recycle lacks the discipline to do it properly, you’re just exhausting the resource. It works just like any other industry; the time and money spent on labor picking out garbage and contaminated recyclables increases the cost to process the material. The cleaner recyclable material we all provide, the better and less costly it is to process. If you don’t have the time or energy to wash it don’t feel guilty about throwing it in the trash. It’s just going to end up there anyway, and you won’t be contaminating other material. Everyone is trying their best!! But just pretend you’re the guy who has to find obnoxious things at work all day before you toss your dirty plastic pasta jar in the recycling bin.”
Recycling and the recycling industry will continue to evolve. Participation and volumes may suffer if there is a limited tolerance by the public to adjust to the changes. Clear and strong educational efforts by the local entities in the collection and processing system is essential to sustain recent years successes in increased recycling participation.
2.26.20 – RAD Curbside, Inc