The number of people taking part in curbside recycling in Coeur d’Alene has shot up since last fall, when the city doubled the number of items it accepts and allowed residents to toss their recyclables into single bin without sorting.
About 60 percent of the city’s households now roll their blue bins out to the curb every other week. The non-sort recycling is easier for both residents and collection trucks, said Steve Wulf, principal planner for Kootenai County Solid Waste Department.
He also suspects that peer pressure has boosted participation rates.
“I think there’s social consciousness going on out there,” Wulf said. “The bins are fairly obvious. It’s easy to see who is doing it and who is not.”
Before the change last fall, 27 percent of Coeur d’Alene’s households participated in curbside recycling. Since the new bins went into use in October, the volume of material collected went up 220 percent.
In December, city residents diverted 400,000 pounds of recyclables from Kootenai County’s Fighting Creek Landfill. Based on the increase in recycling rates, solid waste managers anticipate 120 fewer trailer-truck loads of garbage at the landfill this year.
The overall list of items accepted has expanded from eight to 16. More types of plastics can be thrown into the bins, including deli food trays, margarine tubs and laundry detergent containers.
However, adding junk mail to the mix has drawn the most favorable comments from customers, Wulf said. “Some people recycle it before they get into the house,” he said.
Customers don’t pay more for the non-sort system, which makes collection easier for the drivers. The materials get bundled together and taken to a sorting center in Spokane County.
By mid-summer, Kootenai County should have its own sorting center. Blue Bird Recyling has contracted to sort the recycled materials and plans to build a center here. Some sorting can be done by machine. Other sorting must be done by hand.
The city of Post Falls, which currently requires its residents to sort their recyclables, is considering adopting a similar system.
Wulf said most of the recycled materials stay in the Northwest for reuse. Bales of mixed paper are turned into attic insulation and old newspapers become new newsprint. Aluminum cans are recycled in Post Falls at IMCO. Cardboard is sent to Longview Fiber in southwest Washington, where it’s turned into fiberboard.
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