Teton Valley Community Recycling

Recycling can be confusing. At least that’s what I’ve learned in my two years on the job as Executive Director for Teton Valley Community Recycling, the local non-profit focusing on collaboration, education, and advocacy to reduce waste in our little piece of paradise.

I’ve had lengthy discussions with people about the difference between #1 PETE “blow-molded” plastic bottles, and #1 PETE “injection-molded” food containers, and why only the bottles have an end market; about the reasons why Teton County, Idaho can’t recycle magazines or aluminum foil; and, why our small county needs to “source separate” our recycling rather than dumping it all into one big can like they do in many cities.

The confusing nature of recycling has led to sky-high recycling contamination rates across the country – up to 50 percent! In the summer of 2018, our Solid Waste team at the Transfer Station performed a plastic recycling audit of our self-hauled plastic recycling materials, and also found 50% contamination. Unfortunately, contaminated recycling nationwide has led the recycling industry to the brink of collapse.

Fortunately, there is a global and national movement to fix the problem. One successful approach is standardized labeling for recycling to make it possible for people to recycle right wherever they are. The non-profit Recycle Across America (RAA) is gaining traction at federal and community levels with their mission of standardized recycling labels on bins across the US – in schools, national parks, businesses, and municipalities. The easier it is for people to “recycle right”, the more viable recycling becomes as a solution to creating a less wasteful and more circular economy where our waste products actually get turned back into useful materials instead of being buried in a landfill.

TVCR and RAD Curbside have invited Recycle Across America staff to visit us on the west side of the Tetons and share their message - the value of standardized labeling and recycling right. They are currently doing outreach work as part of the National Park Zero Landfill Initiative in Grand Teton National Park (GTNP), Denali National Park, and Yosemite National Park, helping teach visitors how to recycle right using the standardized labels on bins. The Zero Landfill Initiative pilot program was introduced in these three parks by Subaru and the National Parks Conservation Association with the goal of reducing the amount of landfill-bound waste from the national park system.

Two of the Recycle Across America representatives will be setting up a booth at the Teton County Fair from 11am-2pm on Thursday, August 8th. That evening, they’ll go down to Victor and set up a booth at Music on Main. They’re excited to see the highly successful Beer Cup Rental Program instituted by the Teton Valley Foundation last year. Before returning to their project in GTNP, the team will finish up their visit by hosting a booth at the Targhee Bluegrass Festival on Friday, August 9th. Please come by and visit them at any of their venues - and learn more about their important work!

Thanks to a generous grant from Subaru, and in collaboration with RAD Curbside, all three of the Teton Valley events will use RAA’s standardized recycling label system. Attendees at the County Fair, Music on Main, and the Bluegrass Festival will have a chance to see the great work of Recycle Across America in action, and to appreciate the huge impact a simple label change can have to improve recycling effectiveness - nationwide.


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