Rural recycling bins upgraded
City Garbage Service, looking after customers in La Grande and most of Union County’s outlying communities, made some improvements in its recycling program recently with help from Union County.
Recycle bins were refurbished, making it easier than ever for City Garbage customers to know where to put what, and helping City Garbage to cut down on handling costs.
In the past, Oregonians participating in local recycling programs were required to separate items into a bewildering array of bins. It was a time-consuming process.That began to change about six years ago, when the Portland metro area switched from the “source-separated” recycle model to co-mingling.
For many City Garbage customers in La Grande, co-mingling became the standard in 2003 when the company started picking up recycled materials curbside.
At that time, City Garbage saw a dramatic increase in recycling, according to Darin Larvik of City Garbage Service.
“Our participation rate nearly doubled,” he said.
Source-separating required people to sort materials like newspapers and milk jugs, magazines and milk jugs, into the marked bins.
Co-mingling, on the other hand, means that all recyclable items, with the exception of corrugated cardboard, glass and motor oil, are dropped in bins together. Later, they are sorted at plants designed for the purpose.
Co-mingling saves both time and space, Larvik said.
“The beauty of it is, people have just two bins to worry about instead of seven. They can reclaim their garages,” Larvik said.
Two years ago, dividers were removed from the rural bins, but the bins were not marked with signs explaining the co-mingling system. Larvik said City Garbage was waiting to see what would happen with markets elsewhere in the state.
“The metro area is the 800-pound gorilla,” Larvik said. “It drives most Oregon politics and recycling markets. We watched and waited to make sure that source-separated was going to become the standard. Once we started it, we knew it would be hard to go back.”
Larvik recently decided the time had come to refurbish the boxes and bring the rural transfer stations in Elgin, Imbler, Cove and North Powder in line with the co-mingling model.
He asked the Union County Solid Waste District for financial help with the project. In August, his request was sent to the Union County Board of Commissioners, which agreed to provide up to $3,000 to help with the re-painting and marking of 12 rural boxes.
“The bins have been out there 13 years and they were starting to look kind of shabby,” Larvik said.
Now, the bins in the rural areas, like the one at Willow Street in
La Grande, are painted gray and have just two compartments: one for mixed paper, newspaper, magazines, milk jugs, tin cans, aluminum and plastic bottles, and the other for glass.
“If glass breaks it gets mixed in the fibers and the paper mills won’t take it. It’s really critical to separate the glass out,” Larvik said.
A separate box is set aside at the stations for corrugated cardboard, and, as always, motor oil must be brought to the Willow Street station for recycling.
Larvik said Union County residents have always supported recycling. State rules require a 27.6 percent recovery rate. Union County’s recovery rate, at 30 percent, tops that.