In colonial days, shortly after their Declaration of Independence was read, inspired lower Manhattanites struck down a statue of their former king and recycled it, symbolically and ironically, by smelting the statue and casting it into the bullets they used in the war for independence.
As the country developed and industry became more efficient at turning out cheap products, the age of waste emerged. After centuries of neglecting the land, its resources and the disposal of waste, civic leaders are once again focused on reuse. The Wood River Valley is no exception.
Modern recycling does a multitude of things, says Craig Barry, executive director of Ketchumís Environmental Resource Center. It reduces the size of landfills and saves natural resources, which in turn lowers costs for manufacturers who save money by reducing the energy it takes to harvest virgin resources, like aluminum, paper and steel. All this ultimately leads to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, leaving a lighter carbon footprint on the environment.
Dan Goldstein, the ERCís program director, points to the success story of recycling aluminum. "Aluminumís lightweight and easily recyclable. Manufacturers save up to 95 percent of their energy costs by using recycled aluminum instead of virgin aluminum." The savings, he says, are passed on to consumers.
But both agree that while recycling has numerous benefits, and has spawned an entire industry that employs thousands, recycling needs to be easy and convenient. According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only one curbside recycling program existed 20 years ago. Since then, almost 9,000 similar programs have cropped up, employing people all over the country.
Goldstein says it takes political will for communities to adopt such programs. Blaine County currently recycles 25 percent of its waste. That percentage may seem modest when compared to the rates of other communities, but Barry and Goldstein note that unlike most states, Idaho recycles through a grassroots movement, and does not have a statewide waste management program. Most Wood River Valley communities have convenient curbside pickup, however, the city of Hailey went a step further.
In the early 1990s, Hailey officials adopted a variable rate program, or "Pay As You Throw" (PAYT). According to Hailey City Clerk Heather Dawson, only a few dumpers (but enough to matter) trucked their trash to local canyons, rather than to designated landfills. But this, coupled with the fact that Haileyís alleyways too often became strewn with trash, prompted the passing of an ordinance that mandated curbside garbage pickup. Residents can choose to use 33-gallon (currently $11 per month) or 95-gallon (currently $22) trash receptacles, encouraging users to keep an eye on their pocketbooks, as well as what they toss. Those who recycle more, and thus opt for the smaller receptacle, save $130 each year on trash pickup.
Dawson says at first the program was met with strong resistance. But in the last 15 years, the canyons and alleys are cleaner and transplants to the area call not to complain, but to find out how they can recycle most efficiently.
Until that political will reaches critical mass, Barry and Goldstein say, there are numerous things one can do to improve recycling efforts in the valley. Besides recycling at home, valley residents should recycle at work, or persuade their employers to initiate a recycling program. Goldstein says many businesses think green by opting for electronic billing statements instead of sending paper through the mail. Sun Valley Company, owner of Sun Valley Resort, has recently begun a recycling program, which brings it recognition as a responsible corporate steward of the environment.
Of course, writing letters (or more eco-friendly e-mails) to persuade state representatives to adopt more progressive waste management goals, as well as pressing elected officials to pressure manufacturers to better design products and packaging with recycling in mind are also effective methods for eliciting further change.
Thinking green should also mean buying green products as well as recycling. "Itís not just putting something back into the system, but pulling from it as well," said Barry.
Blaine County residents produce 9.96 pounds of waste each day, twice as much as the average Americanís 4.6 pounds (source: ERC).
Recycling. The average U.S. resident recycles 32 percent of their total waste. Those in Blaine County recycle about 25 percent (source: ERC).
Clear Creek Disposal operates curbside waste removal
throughout the valley. For residents of Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey,
blue recycling bins are provided as part of the monthly waste collection
charge and recycling can be placed curbside each week with
Items recyclable curbside
All of the following can be recycled curbside; all must be separated (paper bags will do) and placed in the providerís recycling bins:
- Glass bottles
- Plastic containers, numbers #1 or #2
- Aluminum and tin cans
-Glossy paper (magazines and catalogues)
-l White paper and mixed paper (brown paper bags, envelopes, etc.)
-Cardboard can be picked up by arrangement for an extra charge
The following items are not acceptable for curbside recycling:
- Plastic containers numbers #1 or #2 that do not have a threaded neck
- Aluminum (tin) foil
- Pizza boxes and bags
- Cardboard milk or juice cartons
- Pesticide containers
- Chemical cans
Other recycling locations
Ketchum:Fourth Street Recycling Center at Fourth and Spruce Avenue in LDS church parking lot (cardboard only)
Sun Valley:Sun Valley City Hall, 81 Elkhorn Road, at the corner of Elkhorn and Dollar, and the Sun Valley Fire Station at Morningstar and Arrowleaf (takes cardboard and all curbside recycling items)
Hailey:Park & Ride, River Street and Bullion (cardboard only)
Ohio Gulch:The Blaine County Resource Recovery Center at Ohio Gulch (110 Ohio Gulch Road, off Highway 75 between Ketchum and Hailey, 788.0880, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday to Saturday) accepts just about every recyclable item. White goods (household appliances such as washing machines) can be recycled here for $5. But if in working condition, drop them off at any valley thrift store. Computers (and related equipment) and other electronic devices (including batteries) can also be recycled here, free of charge.
Carey Transfer Station:With the exception of glass and plastics numbers 1 and 2, the station accepts everything accepted at Ohio Gulch, including hazardous household materials, motor oil and white goods. 1675 South 1800 East, Carey, 208.823.4308,
8 a.m-6 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday.
Other ways to recycle
There are many businesses in the valley that take what consumers no longer need and will write a receipt for tax credit. For example, many mechanic shops take tires, used oil or antifreeze, and nonprofits and thrift stores accept books, furniture and clothing. The Building Material Thrift Store (3930 Woodside Boulevard, Hailey, buildingmaterialthriftstore.org) accepts resalable building and household materials; everything from working appliances, windows, shutters, fixtures, roofing, new carpet and doors, to entire houses. Open Tuesday to Friday, from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. There is no charge to drop off items and pickup is available.
Nice shirt. Where did you get it?
The reincarnation of your plastic bottle of water
-You (and several others) bought recyclable bottles of water
-Before recycling, you reused it a few times, filling it
- You (and others) recycle it.
- Your waste collector collects it from your curbside.
- Your collector sells it to an independent broker.
- The independent broker processes and separates your plastic,
which he sells to a manufacturer as uniform plastic pellets.
- The manufacturer processes and mixes those pellets into fabric.
- Your new shirt is made of 50 percent recycled cotton and 50 percent recycled plastic.