Jesseca McGeary recycles her garbage Thursday at a Missoula recycling center. (Photo by Martin Kidston)
By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
Who said beer cans and plastic milk jugs don’t mix?
Looking to support the city’s zero waste initiative and other climate action strategies, Republic Services will expand its all-in-one recycling program this spring and cut the cost of service in an effort to boost participation.
Jennifer Bernosky, the account manager at Republic Services, announced the company’s new initiative this week during a presentation to the City Council. The cost to participate in the curbside “all-in-one” program will drop to $12 a month while collection doubles to every other week.
The program is set to launch in May.
“All recycling goes into one container and it’s picked up every other week on your designated day,” Bernosky said. “We hope that we’re offering an affordable and frequent-enough service to allow Missoulians who need a more convenient option to take advantage of it.”
Republic Services currently spearheads three recycling programs in Missoula, including the drop-off bins and the blue-bag program. It also offers a curbside program, though collection is currently limited to once a month.
Bernosky, who was hired a year ago to bolster Republic’s recycling program, said city residents were looking for more options and more frequent service.
“A lot of customers who had our curbside program were saying that our once-a-month pickup just wasn’t frequent enough,” Bernosky said. “We’ll roll back the price of our all-in-one program and double the service to every other week for $12 a month. The cart is included and there’s no sorting.”
The new program and the educational campaign that will accompany it aligns with recent community efforts to address climate change and reduce waste.
In 2013, the city passed its Municipal Conservation & Climate Action Plan – an effort to make municipal operations carbon neutral by 2015. Earlier this month, the City Council also adopted a zero-waste strategy with a goal of diverting 90 percent of Missoula’s refuse to recycling by 2050.
“The timing was serendipitous, but we wanted a more robust program anyway,” Bernosky said. “There was more public and business interest in recycling, and having more recycling options fits really well into the idea of zero waste.”
Bernosky said Republic’s drop-off location is equipped to bundle materials by type, including the various categories of plastic. Plastics are separated by category and packaged into a single bale. Plastics that are less prevalent are bundled together and sorted in Seattle.
The all-in-one process applies a similar method, she said.
“The way the all-in-one process works, it all comes in together – it’s all put on the conveyor belt and made into a bale as all in one,” she said. “Those bales are put onto a truck and sent to our sorting facility in Seattle, and that’s where those bales are broken open. They go through the sorting line to be separated.”
While the local facility lacks the infrastructure to sort materials locally, Bernosky said, the all-in-one sorting process in Seattle permits Republic to collect a greater number of goods. Nothing at the recycling center ends up in the trash, she added, though glass remains an issue.
“Right now, the batches of glass that were contaminated at Target went to a pile at our landfill, and we’re repurposing that as aggregate for our road base,” she said. “We’re constantly building roads at the landfill and expanding different areas, so we crush the glass and use it as an alternative road base at the landfill.”