Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sandpoint Transitions Investigating Ways to Resolve Glass Recycling Issue

Recycling glass. The question in Sandpoint these days seems to be, do they or don’t they? Residents are uncertain whether the glass they put out on the curb each week is actually being recycled or whether it is dumped into a landfill.

In an effort to clear up some of the confusion, a group displayed a sign in the recent Fourth of July parade that said Sandpoint does recycle glass. Some people who observed the sign said they were sure the statement was incorrect. So what is the truth and why the confusion?

“It is because of the confusion that we did that,” said Jen Del Carlo, chairman of the working group researching waste issues for the recently formed Sandpoint Transitions Initiative, which was responsible for the sign in the parade. “I don’t know exactly where the confusion has come from.”

Perhaps the confusion lies in the fact that Bonner County does not recycle glass but the city of Sandpoint does.

According to Sandpoint Public Works Director Kody Van Dyk, Bonner County transfer stations no longer accept glass because of a lack of market, a practice Del Carlo says began in early 2008.

“They (Bonner County) crushed it (the glass) at the Colburn Culver transfer station where I believe they used it for fill. They were notified by the state Department of Environmental Quality early in 2008 that they could not continue to do that so glass now goes to the landfill (in Oregon),” said Del Carlo.

Andrea Wells of Waste Management, Sandpoint’s trash contractor, confirmed that Sandpoint does recycle, or reuse, glass.

“It goes to a Waste Management facility in Medical Lake (Washington) on Graham Road where they crush it and use it as a road base,” Wells said.

But whether it is the county hauling the glass to a landfill or the city of Sandpoint transporting the glass to Washington to be recycled, the cost is not cheap.

“There is no money in glass recycling,” said Wells, who adds that the cost can vary depending upon factors such as the cost of fuel.

“Recycling is not the moneymaker people think it is. It is much cheaper to make glass from scratch.”

The fear among members of the community is that it will no longer become cost-effective to transport the glass for recycling and the city will follow the path of the county when it comes to disposal of glass.

That is just one of many reasons that the Sandpoint Transitions Initiative was formed late last year. Its goal is to create a sustainable, resilient and vibrant community in the Sandpoint area by forming committees that will research issues and implement programs on everything from ways to eliminate waste by creating a circular flow of materials and energy to how to drastically reduce carbon emissions. And in the short time it has been in existence, the research work groups are making progress.

“We are investigating options for the reuse of glass and providing that information to the county,” said Del Carlo. “There are companies in Utah and Oregon that purchase glass for use in tile. The city of Lewiston is purchasing a glass crusher so that they can turn their glass into fill that would otherwise have to be purchased for use in city projects.”

Del Carlo said Sandpoint collects more than 10 tons of glass a month and Bonner County spent an average $93,000 per month last year for trucking costs and landfill fees to take glass to the landfill in Arlington, Ore.

“We see reducing the material that goes to landfills as an important first step in our mission. Ideally resources that currently end up in landfills would be reused locally in other products, for example composting paper, yard waste and food scraps, which makes up 63 percent of the solid waste in Bonner County, for use in gardens, recycling plastic into park benches, and reusing glass,” Del Carlo said.

Other steps the group has taken include working with organizations such as The Festival at Sandpoint to encourage a green approach to their event.

“Our goal is for plastic and Styrofoam food containers used by the vendors be replaced with biodegradable ones that will be composted along with food waste,” said Del Carlo, adding that the Festival already does a great job using volunteers to separate recyclable beverage containers.

The group is also working closely with Michael Boge of the Sandpoint City Council to review the city’s contract with Waste Management. One proposed change is to include curbside recycling for area businesses – a program in which 46 out of 47 businesses surveyed said they would gladly participate.

They would also like to see the city contract with Waste Management to accept all recyclable plastics.

“Sandpoint recycles food and beverage containers with a 1 or 2 on the container,” said Wells, who said Waste Management does not have a say in what is recycled.

“We recycle what they (the city of Sandpoint) requests we recycle.”

To learn more about Sandpoint Transitions Initiative and how to help, go to www.sandpoint

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