SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County's new recycling initiative hopes to make curbside recycling increasingly goof proof.
Residents in unincorporated Salt Lake County and five cities no longer have to keep track of whether it's recycling week or not because, beginning Sept. 1, curbside recycling will be picked up once a week.
The weekly pickups, which will be in unincorporated Salt Lake County, Holladay, Cottonwood Heights, Taylorsville, Herriman and a portion of Murray, were instituted largely because of consumer demand and their willingness to pay for it. While four other service providers offer weekly recycling in the valley, this effort will be the largest municipal recycling collection statewide and presumably will add life to the joint city-county landfill.
"With weekly recycling, we have the ability to capture more that is ending up in the landfill," said Ashlee Yoder, recycling coordinator for the Salt Lake Valley Solid Waste Management Facility. The weekly pickups will coincide with weekly refuse collections.
The county's waste audits — where employees have literally sorted through truckloads of refuse to study what people were discarding — suggested a significant amount of recyclable material has gone into the city-county landfill. Environmental Protection Agency statistics say up to 60 percent of materials that go into landfills could be recycled.
Hopefully, the weekly pickups will free up enough space in home recycling bins that people will make a more concerted effort to sort refuse from materials that can be recycled.
"If their recycling bin is too full, they're going to put that stuff in the garbage because they have to get rid of it somehow," Yoder said.
Salt Lake County launched biweekly curbside recycling on a subscription basis in 2003. Four years later, recycling bins were placed at 80,000 households for pickups every other week.
Pam Roberts, director of Salt Lake County's sanitation division, said the sanitation district covers 26 percent of the residences in Salt Lake County. The weekly recycling collection will be the largest statewide by a single provider.
"I'm hoping this will be a tipping point for other municipalities to go this direction because looking at the waste audit, it's something that is needed," Roberts said.
Residents of the sanitation district will pay $24 more a year for additional service, or a total of $156 a year.
The weekly pickups will include an intensive education component. Recently, fliers were stapled to refuse containers reminding residents of the change and a list of recycling tips.
Over time, most people have developed a greater sensibility about the importance of recycling, Yoder said.
"People are creatures of habit. For the longest time, they threw things away. The mindset has changed a little bit. People know when they see a plastic bottle, 'That's plastic. I know not to to throw it away,'" she said.
"We're confident we're going in the right direction based on the research we've already done," said Nicole Omer, chairwoman of Administrative Control Board for Special Service District #1. "We need to keep the service economically feasible for our customers but we also have an environmental responsibility."
And change relieves Omer, like others served by the sanitation district, from the weekly indecision on trash day.
"I know I always have to look across the street to my neighbors to see" whether they've moved their blue recycling bin to the curb, she said.
Recycling do's and don'ts
PAPER: Newspapers, office paper, envelopes, junk mail, magazines, phone cards, cardboard and boxes, paper plates and cups without food on them, cereal boxes (take out waxed paper liners), paper rolls
PLASTIC: All containers labeled #1-#7, packaging materials, grocery and dry cleaning bags bundled, clothes hangers (bundle with a piece of tape), window blinds without the cords (bundle with tape)
METAL: Aluminum cans, empty aerosol cans, scrap metal/pots and pans, steel or tin cans, clothes hangers (bundled with tape), window blinds without cords (bundled with tape)
Paper towels and napkins, glass, ceramics, vinyl and rubber, food wrappers, diapers, food, green or yard waste, batteries, pet food bags
Note: Special Service District No. 1 does not collect glass curbside. Glass can be dropped off at: Taylorsville Park, 1628 W. 4800 South; South Millcreek Upper District Park, 3800 S. Wasatch Blvd; Holladay City, 4580 S. 2300 East (south of City Hall)