Idaho Falls begins glass recycling program

Sanitation department workers spent Monday setting up new blue recycling bins at the city's 13 permanent recycling bin locations to allow residents to recycle bottles and other glass for the first time.

The bins are being operated by Momentum Recycling, a Salt Lake City-based company which was given the contract after the City Council voted in October to initiate the new recycling program. While residents have long been able to get curbside recycling through Western Recycling or drop cardboard and plastic off at the public collection bins, none of the local companies had the ability to sort and process glass.

"Every ton, every pound that we are taking out of the waste stream is also being taken out of the landfills. Our goal is to take as much as possible out of the local landfill and take it to be recycled at their facility in Salt Lake City," Idaho Falls sanitation superintendent Jordan Rechenmacher said.

Those pounds could add up fast if glass proves as popular to recycle as other materials. Last year, Idaho Falls sanitation workers emptied the public collection bins more than a thousand times and recycled 780 tons of cardboard and plastic. Rechenmacher said city workers would not check the bins as frequently at first and that it would take around three months to fully understand the program's popularity.

City workers still will empty the glass recycling bins as they become full and bring the contents to a new concrete holding pad near the department headquarters on Hemmert Avenue. After at least 35 tons of glass has been collected, the city will arrange a time for Momentum to haul the material to Salt Lake City using tractor-trailers. The company then can process the material into small particles which can be reused for fiberglass, ceramic binding and water filtration devices.

Pocatello has run a similar recycling program through Momentum Recycling since June, collecting the glass at a handful of drop-off bins throughout the city and holding the material until it can shipped south en masse. Pocatello recycling coordinator Debbie Brady said the city shipped out its first load, which contained more than 38 tons of glass, in September and was scheduling a time to deliver another 44 tons to Momentum this month.

"I'm a little shocked at how popular the program was. It seems to be increasing every month," Brady said.

Expanding the city's recycling options is not coming at a huge cost to Idaho Falls residents. The initial cost for all the new features of the recycling program was $35,000, some of which was covered by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, and operational cost are expected to be around $2,000 per month.

The bins will take all forms of bottles as well as food containers and plate glass but more complex forms such as mirrors and lightbulbs cannot be recycled. Idaho Falls residents will still have to sort their recycling into the appropriate bins at the collection sites, but they do not need to peel labels from bottles or clean them out before recycling them.

"As much glass as our city residents are willing to give us, we are happy to recycle," Rechenmacher said.