Teton County, WY Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling (ISWR) is doubling down on their plea to the public: Please, do your part. Teton County generates an enormous amount of trash. A booming economy, the nature of a tourist town. July 2019 was a record-setter for garbage—3,760 tons worth to be exact. Never has the trash transfer station experienced volume like that for a one-month period.
But without recycling and various reduce/reuse efforts (which are difficult to track), July’s numbers could have been even more eye-popping. Carrie Bell, Waste Diversion and Outreach Coordinator with ISWR, says the county’s diversion rate stands at about 30%, meaning nearly a third of the total waste produced in Teton County never gets to the landfill.
Recycling is not easy. Several factors make it a challenge anywhere in the world. But in Teton County, despite what you might read in the headlines today, recycling still works. Perhaps you’ve heard that recycling today is a failed endeavor. Recycling plastics, for instance, has been touted as more energy-expensive than it’s worth. The market for other recyclables is also experiencing a significant crash. There are simply too few buyers and they have become very choosey about what they will accept.
“Don’t believe any rumors about the Recycling Center landfilling recyclables because it simply isn’t true. Don’t let the national news discourage you from recycling in Teton County because our system is a system that works,” Bell says. “Even though prices for commodities are at an all-time low, we are still able to sell all of our recyclables. In fact, other communities are looking to our program as an example of something that works in a difficult market.”
A lot of the success has to do with what happens before that Coke can or Amazon packaging ever hits the recycling facility. ISWR maintains strong working relationships with vendors because they trust our stuff is clean. That takes hours and hours of painstaking sorting that begins at ground zero at the recycling bins around the valley. “Easy recycling doesn’t work. Recycling is hard,” Bell says. “But our community does an amazing job of keeping the contamination level very low.”