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The thing about recycling

Bill Baxter, finance accountant and utility billing supervisor, discusses the recycling pilot program that has been in place during a city council meeting Monday at City Hall in downtown Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS — Recycling in the city will continue with some restrictions.

Twin Falls City Council approved modifying its recycling program Aug. 19 to only recycle cardboard, aluminum and tin. Plastics and mixed paper will no longer be recycled.

The costs to bail, ship, sort and process recycling are different for each material, and some materials are less affordable to recycle than others, Chief Financial Officer Lorie Race told council members. Eliminating plastics and mixed paper from the recycling stream will cut half the cost of the city’s recycling program and save a net of about $70,000 annually, Race said.

The city employs a single stream recycling system, meaning residents place all materials into a bin without sorting them. That leads to uncertainty about what materials are recyclable, especially plastics, said Mayor Shawn Barigar.

“I think it’s an opportunity to think about that re-education by pulling out that thing that is most confusing,” Barigar said.

Trash makes up 11% of recycling materials, and it costs twice as much in the recycling stream as it does in the landfill, Race said. A load of recycling contaminated with trash cannot be recycled and must be thrown out, she said.

It doesn’t make sense to pay extra to send trash to landfills in Ada County, but it’s still important to maintain the recycling program, said Councilman Greg Lanting.

“I’m concerned if we shelve it, how do we ever get started back up?” Lanting said. “We take people out of the motion of recycling.”

Markets for recycling are always expanding, contracting and changing, said Councilman Chris Talkington.

“It’s hard to say a year from now where the market is going to be,” Talkington said.

Several residents shared input at the meeting and expressed interest in keeping the recycling program going. Others suggested the benefit of recycling is offset by the negative environmental impact involved in the process.

The amount of space saved in the landfill is not enough to justify the cost and carbon footprint of recycling, said Councilwoman Suzanne Hawkins, who cast the lone vote against the program.

“We want to do what’s right by the environment but spending fossil fuels to ship things across the country is not good for anybody,” Hawkins said, who added she wished to temporarily shelve the program.

About 1,200 tons of material have been recycled in 2019 in the city. Mixed paper makes up 43% of the recycle stream, followed by 37% cardboard and 11% trash.

PSI Environmental Systems is the city’s waste contractor, and pays about one-third of the cost of the city’s recycling program.

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