All it takes is one or a few individuals to destroy the effort of a majority. As an example of this, last Wednesday while the staff was working in the back trying to clean up and catch up on processing recyclables as well as sorting out trash from some of the material, a person or persons came to the closed facility gate which even has two signs stating the center was closed plus a sign with the operating hours in plain sight, proceeded to open the gate, go to the glass recycling bins (recently emptied), put their household trash inside the bin, left the drop off area, closed and then secured the gate behind them. Staff then had to spend additional time to clean up the trash from the glass bin instead of spending the time in processing and cleaning up the center as planned for Wednesday facility closure.
This incident is not only perplexing but frustrating as it brings to mind one of the issues we have been facing at the center, the failure to bring clean, recyclable material that meets the standards shown by pictures in front of the bags and bins. This incident is the most egregious, though, as the material was literally household trash without any attempt to bring clean material that can be used or recycled. Adding insult to injury though is opening a closed gate stating the facility is closed and proceeding to enter a closed facility, in essence purposefully trespassing to dump litter!
This reminds me of a proverbial saying I heard when I was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. "For every 10 good deeds, it takes one to wipe them out and puts you 10 in the red." To the vast majority of our citizens who make every effort to have clean, recyclable material, a big thank you. For those very few who are undermining those efforts, please thank about what you are doing and be courteous.
Pete Seeger wrote a song in the late 1950's that was made popular by the group, The Byrds, which starts with the following lyrics: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven"
This song has been rattling around in my head for the past few weeks as the District continues to evaluate and work towards a recycling option for the community that the Solid Waste District serves. The center is located on an industrial piece of land which has served over time the Grand County Road Department, Grand County Weeds Department, Moab Mosquito Abatement District, the Canyonlands Community Recycling and the Solid Waste District. The tonnages that have been received, processed and shipped through the recycling center have steadility increased over time to where over 1400 tons of material was received in 2017. There have been no significant upgrades to the infrastructure although changes have been made in the operations. In 2018, the District has suffered personnel shortages, similar to many businesses and entities throughout our community. Compounding our difficulties are limited transportation available to ship materials to markets, if markets are available. Then the impact from China has created some of the biggest chaos in the industry in decades. All these items plus the cyclical nature of our tourism industry impacts on the region, have create a situation in which we have been unable to catch up and clean up.
We are at a major crossroads in how to proceed. Changes will be coming in 2019 although we are still trying to determine what and how much will change. For the immediate future, we are cleaning up the back area and processing the stockpiled plus incoming material. We are continuing to assess how to reconfigure the operations to include the receiving/drop off area, commodities to be taken, hours of operation, improved storage of processed material to expedite material sent off site for recycling or repurposing. Some folks have been asking if the District would be the host site for an industrial food waste composting operation which would be enclosed. Other folks are asking if we close the recycling center down can it be repurposed to a resource center for entrepreneurs developing value added products supporting local sustainability. and sustainability locally.
As we make the decisions for 2019 and beyond, we will be remodeling the recycling center later this fall. This will require us to temporarily shut down the facility to public traffic for short period of time. The center will continue to work with Green Solutions, Monument Waste or other commercial accounts during a shut down. The goal is to improve safety for staff and customers and enhance the operational efficiency of the Center while taking into account our limited personnel and financial resources in the context of the changing world of recycling.
Not only is there a season and a time to every purpose under the heavens, as sung by the Byrds, we are also on a cusp of a change similar to what we sang in "The Time They are A-Changing". I am thankful we have a resilient, flexible community over all that is willing to listen, to challenge, to change, to adapt.
After additional deliberation based on lack of personnel, the district is limited public access to the drop point to only Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 8 am to 5 pm and on Saturday from 8 am to 12:30 pm. The drop point will be closed to public drop off on Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, Holidays, and Saturday afternoon. In addition, the district will no longer accept pigmented plastic #2, plastic #3-7, mixed paper (catalogs, junk mail, magazines, file folders, etc.) or newspaper (from residents). We are not the only program in the nation that is having to reduce the materials accepted as there is a growing lack of available market for these commodities. In addition, these materials have a high contamination rate. I have been saddened by the lack of consideration of a few people who are refusing to pull their styrofoam and plastic packing materials from their cardboard. The value of the cardboard is $130 per ton, transportation costs alone are about $80 to $85 per ton. Two of the loads sent by the district were rejected because of too much plastic. This means the district did not even receive money to pay for the transportation costs.
We will continue to consider all reasonable options for waste diversion in our community, but just like other entities across the world, we are facing not only economic factors of reduced income to pay for recycling, but a lack of personnel to process the materials. What has been helping in recent weeks are the number of volunteers assisting in picking up the recycling drop area. The dumpster that has been present for the past month will be removed in the next few weeks. We placed that to help folks that had not gotten the message to not bring the materials we are no longer recycling. The materials in that roll off are not being recycled but are being sent to the transfer station to be taken to the Klondike Landfill for burial. We are having to pay for the disposal costs, just as any other entity that contracts for a roll off.
At this time, the district will continue to recycle cardboard, aluminum cans, steel cans, plastic #1 threaded bottles, non pigmented plastic #2 (translucent milk jugs), glass bottles/jugs/jars, books, and office paper (no envelopes, junk mail, magazines, catalogs, etc.). Commercial entities bringing material to the center will be charged $4 per cubic yard to help offset costs to receive, process and ship.
Change is a part of living, but it can be very challenging when the change is not what we want or desire. The patience and support of the community as we make these hard choices is appreciated.
The following article has some really interesting opinions from a man who has been involved in Solid Waste for many, many years. He is one of my mentors and I have two of his books as references. One is a large notebook on Landfill/Solid Waste Safety protocols - only 2.5 inches thick by the way and has many "It really happened" stories proving safety needs and issues. The other is The Handbook on Landfill Operations. Both are easy to read and understand but are very, very detailed.
The article is very interesting and thought provoking.
After several months of deliberations, calculations, discussions, and presentations, the district has had to make some very hard choices in order to provide a sustainable level of recycling to the community. For those that attended the Moonflower series in April and May, the costs and carbon footprint impacts were presented in powerpoint format. Moonflower also video taped each session. As has been stated for several years, the recycling center has been losing money every year. Based on the costs to produce, the decreased value of several commodities, and the low impact on carbon savings, the district is implementing the following reductions: