State Agency Says Wyoming Recycling Programs Improving

Wyoming is improving its waste-recycling programs and is better at it than what some national rankings suggest, a state environmental official said. In the 2015, the personal finance website WalletHub ranked Wyoming 41st among 50 states for its eco-friendly behaviors and environmental quality. The Environmental Protection Agency’s report on sustainable materials management contains no data for Wyoming.

This can lead people to think Wyoming has a “woeful recycling rate,” said Craig McOmie, manager of the landfill cease and transfer and remediation program for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. “That’s just not true,” McOmie told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “We do pretty well, I think.”

Wyoming doesn’t require landfill operators to report how much municipal solid waste is buried at landfills. Reporting data on recycling and compost also isn’t required, making it difficult to broadly portray where the state’s efforts are when it comes to diverting waste that would have otherwise gone to landfills, McOmie said.

But in 2013, the Department of Environmental Quality determined that of 1 million tons of solid waste managed in the state, 7 percent was recycled and 8 percent was composted. Today, McOmie said the percentage of waste either recycled or composted is somewhere in a range of 18 to 30 percent.

The city of Cheyenne managed 60,002 tons of solid waste in 2016. Of that, 3,279 tons were diverted with single-stream recycling, and 12,400 tons were diverted into the city’s composting program, accounting for more than 27 percent of Cheyenne’s municipal solid waste. Those figures don’t include electronic waste, hazardous waste, manure and household appliances, which were diverted for recycling and other uses.

“Our numbers keep going up,” said Dennis Pino, the city of Cheyenne’s solid waste program director. “The question is, ‘Can we do better?’ Heck yeah, we can do better.”

Wyoming residents value recycling even though municipal programs generally don’t generate enough money to cover the cost of the program, McOmie said.

“A lot of times, I’ll go into meetings and say, ‘Did you make money with parks and recreation last year? Did you make money with your library?’ And the answer is almost always, ‘No,’ but it’s a service people want,” he said. “You have to see whether people are willing to support that service and pay for it.”

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