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Kitsap County makes big recycling push

New recycling bins for cardboard, electronics and metal have been added to the tipping area at Olympic Transfer Station in Bremerton as a “last chance” reminder for customers to recycle.  - JJ Swanson
New recycling bins for cardboard, electronics and metal have been added to the tipping area at Olympic Transfer Station in Bremerton as a “last chance” reminder for customers to recycle.
— image credit: JJ Swanson

All of Kitsap County’s landfills are full, and the county produces about 180,000 tons of new garbage per year, according to officials who are looking to decrease garbage tonnage by ramping up recycling efforts in 2012.

Olympic View Sanitary Landfill, the last operating landfill in the county, closed permanently about 10 years ago. It had reached a capacity of 7 million cubic yards of garbage before being shut down, according to a report by Kitsap County Public Works, Solid Waste Division.

Now all the county’s garbage is shipped via rail to Columbia Ridge Landfill in Arlington, Ore. which has a lifespan of about 50 more years, said Chris Piercy, recycling coordinator for the division.

“An area that is a landfill, it’s pretty much a landfill forever. You close it up and do some post-closure monitoring, but it’s not like you’re going to ever build anything on it. It’s lost,” Piercy said.

Increased recycling rates could be part of the solution of overcrowded landfills.

Kitsap County had its highest recycling rates in 20 years, according to a recent survey by the Washington State Department of Ecology. The jump of 5 percent since 2009 alone equaled 25,000 more tons of recyclable material collected and a 2,000 ton decrease in garbage for landfills.

The most recycled material in Kitsap County in 2010 was ferrous metals, totaling almost 46,000 tons. Residents also recycled 12,000 tons of newspaper, 15,000 tons of corrugated cardboard, and 645 tons of plastic, according to Waste Management reports.

“In the last 20 years, recycling has moved from the back of people’s minds to the front of it,” said Piercy.

Residents like Marilyn White of Silverdale uses trash compactors and curbside recycling to decrease the size of their trash cans to the smallest 35-gallon size.

“We’ve been recycling ever since we moved here,” said White. “It’s mainly for our earth which is in trouble. It does save money to not have a huge trash bin.”

Curbside pick-up of a 35-gallon trash bin costs $13 a week to empty, while a 96-gallon costs $22 at the same rate, according to the Waste Management website.

Reducing the size of one curbside trash container equals a savings of about $468 per year, per container for households.

Waste Management also includes a small cash incentive by crediting customers’ bills based on the market value of their recyclables at the end of the year, Piercy said.

Olympic Transfer Station in Bremerton is joining the recycling push. The Bremerton station receives approximately 1,000 tons of garbage every day. They are working to make sure that a greater percentage of this tonnage gets recycled if appropriate, said Eric Johnson, operations manager for Olympic Transfer Station.

Vehicles are weighed as they enter the gates with garbage and again as they exit to calculate dumping fees. But recycling is free of charge, and the station is trying make it more convenient for customers by placing more bins throughout the station, said Johnson.

“We just put new bins near the tipping area,” said Johnson. “It’s one last reminder to recycle rather than just dump. A couple extra minutes could save some money, and people are really using them. Bins are filled by morning and we empty them several times a day.”

Debbie Selgren of Bremerton who does not have a curbside recycling service, stocks up her recyclables and brings them to Olympic Transfer Station once a month.

“Sure, it takes some effort, but I’ve always been environmentally conscious. My family’s always recycled,” said Selgren.

Local businesses are also recycling.

Staff at Monica’s Waterfront Bakery and Cafe in Silverdale compost their leftover food. They have a bin behind the building where they put expired lettuce, tomatoes and used coffee grounds which is picked up by local farmers.

“The guy that supplies our produce, he also comes by to pick up the compost to use when we’re done,” said Kayla Carter, bakery clerk.

The cafe also sets up separate recycling bins for customers to put their paper, plastics, and glass when they are finished using them.

“At the end of our day, our trash bins out back are pretty full, but our recycle bins are just as full,” said Carter.

The Solid Waste Division is planning to speak with businesses throughout the county this year to “identify waste streams,” garbage produced that could be recycled.

The Silverdale and Bremerton Chambers of Commerce are partnering with Solid Waste to develop a program to recognize businesses with exceptional recycling efforts. These could include awards, decals similar to the Envirostar sticker, to alert customers that they are entering an environmentally conscious establishment.

Almost all education, outreach and recycling programs are funded by the tip fees collected at county-owned transfer stations, Piercy said. So, as countywide garbage tonnages go down, so will funding for these recycling programs.

“Oddly enough, garbage pays for recycling,” said Piercy. “We’re trying to bring tonnages down, so in a way we’re trying to put ourselves out of business, but we don’t mind.”

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