City Government

New Recycle Program Could Be Costly

We need to raise the yellow caution flag on Boise’s new trash program that includes “no-sort recycling.”

acycleAustin, Texas, often held up as a “Big Brother” for things Boise politicos favor, adopted the no sort recycle scheme last fall and suddenly finds itself nearly $1 million in the hole due to transportation costs brought about because there is no sorting facility nearby–just like Boise. See AUSTIN WOES.

The GUARDIAN thinks it entirely possible for Boise’s trash and recycle contractors to be overwhelmed by the success of the new program. As we understand it, in the near future residents will get two big trash cans–one for garbage and one for recyclables. Based on the trash coming out of the GUARDIAN headquarters (a straight line for you pundits), the majority of the volume qualifies for recycling.
That can be good news and bad. Good that we don’t use up space in the landfill so fast, but quite possibly more than Western recycling can handle. Also bound to cost more than anticipated because prices are so low for the paper, plastic, aluminum material.

Vince Trimboli, Boise’s official trash talking voice told the GUARDIAN, “The potential cost of recycling depends on where the market for recycle materials goes. Recycling commodity prices from December through March were very low and would be problematic if they continued long-term. This is not the expectation.” Avimor and the real estate folks didn’t expect prices to fall either!

We also asked if there is a facility to handle no-sort recycle in the area. Answer: “Our no-sort program will partner with Western Recycling’s Boise facility for packaging and shipping of the materials to recycling facilities that offer the most for the product.” Packing and shipping costs seem to be the sticky part of the business, according to the report from Austin. Let’s hope we don’t burn a ton of diesel to save a ton of plastic or aluminum.

Nothing wrong with recycling, saving the planet, etc. But like using corn to produce ethanol, it may not be the best scientific decision. It would sure be nice to have a Plan B, but fear Plan B could involve higher rates to build someone a sorting facility or a fleet of trucks.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Tom Anderson
    Apr 15, 2009, 11:22 pm

    Well Mr. Guardian, I suppose you’re going to put up a fuss when they have you put your feces and urine out curbside in brown and yellow buckets…

    This will, of course, be a much better solution than creating artificial fertilizer from natural gas, but you probably won’t care, will you?

  2. Do any of these schemes work; ie, save anyone money or make a profit. Portland Maine went with an expensive colored trash bag scheme, saving a few hundred thousand for the city (as the citizens had to buy the bags). The city then spend the savings on new social programs. When they figured out that raising the price of the bags was a money maker for the city, they did, at least twice. Rumor was that the ‘recycled’ trash went to the same dump the old unrecycled trash went and was handled exactly the same way…buried.

  3. I’ve lived in places where you have an all-in-one bin. Now i live in Boise where *gasp* i have to sort…

    It simply isn’t anymore time-consuming to sort. Instead of casually throwing everything into my own indoor container (which i would have to buy since the all-in-one bins are too huge to put in your house) and then emptying that into the larger outdoor container, I have to hover over the right bag — hmmm, yea that’s about 10 extra seconds a week.

  4. So we then would pay someone to sort the items – how can that be a better deal for anyone?

  5. I once read that we will know when recycling paper, plastic,and glass is economically viable when we see the homeless picking them up on the street like they do aluminum.

  6. I experienced the mixed recycling in Lacey, Washington. They provided three separate rolling bins. One for trash, one for mixed recycling (sans glass), one for yard waste. The yard waste bin and the mixed recyling bin rotated pick up every week. My experience with mixed recycling was positive. It did cost more per month. I feel it is worth it. I think mixed recyling is a step in the right direction. I hope the next step is to have residents pay per pound for their landfill trash to encourage recycling.

    EDITOR NOTE– GUARDIAN also supports concept of mixed recycling. We are not certain at this point the city has its ducks lined up to handle it.

  7. Mixed recycling is a no go in my mind. In our house we separate the recyclables as we go and compost all we can. The trash from our household of 6 is one kitchen sized bag and the recycling is 4 times that. Dumping all this into a bin for someone else to sort is just transferring the cost from the free labor we provide to a for profit company and will not come cheap.

    I think lib.redneck has it right, pay by the pound for your trash disposal (actually by the cubic foot would be more appropriate) and that would give a discount for the recyclers like us.

  8. Duh! How about enabling us to buy stuff without a ton of plastic waste enclosing everything (and sometimes requiring a machete to open it).
    Buy drinks in glass bottles with a deposit on them (as we did years ago); take them back to the store and get the deposit back. The trucks that deliver the full bottles (pop, beer, milk, whatever) haul the empties back to the bottler for reuse (instead of driving back empty).
    OK, that leaves tin cans and paper (newspapers, catalogs, magazines). Recycle them (easy to sort at home, or by magnet at the separator sites), and paper products. Yep, maybe still some negative financial impact there, but not as much, anyway.

  9. I actually did some honest-to-gosh research (I know…what a cheater) on this topic myself about a month ago when I got wind that Team Dave was converting Boise city recycling over to a “single stream” process.
    I was primarily interested due to three reasons:
    1. Moving here from Scottsdale, AZ (yes..hate me all you want I’m not going back) I was somewhat taken aback by what I perceived to be a cumbersome and user un-friendly recycle sorting process.
    2. The process took away some of my motivation for wanting to recycle.
    3. I live in a pretty decent sized Ada County (drum roll please) planned community and seeing all the blue bins sitting around the day before and after trash day is both unsightly and can lead to debris blown all about littering up our streets and common areas. I thought my simple minded self “hey what is good for the Boise City goose ought to be good for the Ada County gander…why can’t we get single source recycling here”?
    What I found out (or at least what I was told by what seemed to be pretty sharp Allied Waste representative)was that single stream recycling penciled out at the same cost for two reasons:
    1. Under the bin/sorting philosophy not everyone follows the guidelines as meticulously as does our friend ericn1300. Therefore there is still a lot of manual re-sorting and verification required.
    2. By utilizing a big blue roll-away bin (same size as the trash bins) the pick-up requirements can drop to every other week not every week thereby saving significant operating costs.
    I was told that somewhere in the region (forget the exact location) there now existed a fancy schmancy sorting and recycling machine that would accommodate mixed/baled product trucked in from this area. It all made sense to me and I was considering (never got around to it yet) writing the County Commissioners to ask that single source be considered when they rebid the contract which I believe will happen within the next few months.

    Sharon Ullman…are you out there and can you give us your insights?

  10. Gordon.. you have hit the nail on the head.

    Back in the day we had to return beer and pop bottles to the store for a refund of the bottle deposit. I made over $40 in one afternoon in 1959 taking one lady’s bottles back to the grocery store. That was big bucks to a 13 year old kid scrounging for money.

    Lazy people in my neighborhood would let them pile up and I would offer to haul the bottles back to the store for half the deposit money.

    No gevernment involved. I am not sure why the returnable pop and beer bottles went away. Ditto with milk bottles.

  11. Paul
    When I was a kid in Arizona, we lived about 4 miles from the nearest town with a movie theater. So the other kids and I would walk the 4 miles, picking up bottles along the way (amazing how many people would throw them out of cars when they were worth 5 cents each — the price of a candy bar or half the price of a comic book). Usually, by the time we got to town, we had enough to cash in and go to the movie. Theaters then had couches and living-room-type chairs for people to sit in while waiting for the next movie, or waiting for their kids to come out of one. We’d slip our hands down behind the cushions, and usually come up with enough coins to get some popcorn and maybe candy or a Coke.
    Result: We had a good walk, got to see a movie and eat some junk, and nearly every bottle got recycled (cuz I’m sure other kids — and probably some adults — also cleaned up along the roads).

    EDITOR NOTE–Gordon, you obviously haven’t been to a Boise movie theater lately! With the price of aluminum , even if you filled your F-150 with cans, you wouldn’t have enough for popcorn, drink, and candy.

  12. Why I don’t mind sorting, I think this single stream solution will be beneficial to Boise and Ada County. This new program will encourage recycling from more homes, thus saving landfill space.

    Waste Management,Inc. operates MRF-Materials recovery facilities that automatically sort the single stream recycling. A facility like this could be done with a private/public partnership. Waste Management, Inc. MRF

  13. No, but I’d have enough for a shot of bourbon (out of a glass bottle) at the local bar.

    Hey, tastes change over time. 🙂

    P.S. Movie in Emmett is still $2.50 for us old fogies, and I think $3 or so for everybody else.

  14. “I live in a pretty decent sized Ada County (drum roll please) planned community and seeing all the blue bins sitting around the day before and after trash day is both unsightly and can lead to debris blown all about littering up our streets and common areas.”

    I leave my trash cans on the sidewalk on purpose. If I do not my peasant neighbors will, park ON my sidewalk, block my driveway, or worst of all, actually park on my lawn damaging the sprinkler system. If I leave a big obstacle or so on the sidewalk, they avoid it and park on someone else’s lawn.

  15. So is it OK to mail back junk mail to the sender if it has a pre-paid envelope in it? I’m just sending the suff back to the place it came from since I didn’t request it. Takes abut the same time as sorting the stuff. Some of those envelopes get pretty fat. Hope they recycle it.

  16. Well, like everything else that has been going on the people who make the laws and pass rules for us are quite unable to look ahead and see the various sides of the issues they look at and the various outcomes of the the rules they enact. And this is certainly one of them. It is as if they have no attention span.

    In Oregon they pay a deposit on soda pop cans and bottles to encourage people to bring them back to get their deposit back. Always felt that was a good idea. If they don’t return them, if a tourist fails to do that, then there is money for others to pick up.

  17. What bothers me about how decisions are made down at city hall is they treat us like children on a need to know basis.
    A good example is the glass recycling program. In the beginning, they had us sorting the glass by color with no intention of ever recycling it. All the glass goes in some pit somewhere.
    Why can’t they just be honest?

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