By Rick Edwards, on the board of advisors for Sustainable Wenatchee
With so many changes happening in the last several years on the recycling front, it is no wonder that many NCW residents find it difficult to distinguish waste from recyclables. The value of many recyclable materials has declined recently due to major global market shifts, triggered largely by contamination in the recyclables exported by developed nations. Because we have spent decades dumping many of our recyclables overseas, the United States is far behind in developing domestic processing capabilities for its own waste stream.
The local picture is further complicated by the existence of individual waste-management company contracts---with differing specifications---at the county and city levels. The recycling market for glass---the original recyclable---has collapsed, prompting the development of several community glass-crushing projects (e.g., see Chelan’s 911glassrescue.org project). Great progress was made in 2020 with the opening of Chelan County’s Moderate Risk Waste facility; however, Douglas County continues to be a holdout in supporting that facility. Many residents are poorly informed and confused about the recycling and solid-waste streams in their area, resulting in contaminated recycling, more solid waste ending up in landfills, more waste being incinerated, and a potential increase in illegal dumping. Residents and business owners are constantly asking city and county officials, waste-management company personnel, and Sustainable Wenatchee staff, “How do I properly dispose of this?” and “Where to recycle that?”.
In 2014, those same questions and the need to reduce reckless hazardous waste disposal led the Spokane River Forum to develop an online solid-waste directory for Spokane County. The searchable, interactive directory made it easy for small businesses and the public to find where to dispose of over 250 types of waste generated by business and residential sources. The directory was an immediate success and was soon expanded to include Kootenai County, Idaho. This incredibly valuable online resource was just recently upgraded to include recycling vendors. In 2020, over 20% of households in the two counties used the directory at least once during the year. The Spokane-Kootenai Waste and Recycle Directory continues to be a huge success---reducing landfill and incinerator input, the need for raw materials, and the potential for soil and water contamination.
We have the opportunity to create a similar online resource and success story for NCW. Sustainable Wenatchee, in partnership with the Spokane River Forum, has developed a proposal to create a Waste and Recycle Directory for NCW (prospectus available upon request). Spokane River Forum personnel and their contractor would create and populate the online directory structure and run it through a pilot period. Once fully launched, Sustainable Wenatchee would be responsible for program maintenance, including updating material and vendor listings. Creation and pilot testing of this NCW Directory will cost approximately $28,258.00. Subsequent annual maintenance is estimated to run approximately $3,000.00 per year. Creating this NCW Directory now would benefit from the fact that Spokane River Forum personnel have just completed their major upgrade and expansion of the Spokane-Kootenai Waste and Recycle Directory.
A local non-profit just donated $1,000 toward this effort----so $27,258 is still needed to get this valuable on-line resource up and running. Sustainable Wenatchee’s plan is to meet this funding goal by December 31st and to contract with the Spokane River Forum in January 2022 to develop the NCW Waste and Recycle Directory.
What could a searchable, interactive on-line Waste and Recycle Directory for NCW do for you? Here are a few example scenarios:
You are opening a small gift shop downtown. In preparing your business plan, it becomes obvious that you need to minimize fixed expenses. Solid-waste disposal fees are an unavoidable expense, and you know that you will be generating a large amount of cardboard. If you had access to a local waste and recycle directory, you would easily discover that the Wenatchee Rescue Mission (formerly Hospitality House) runs a cardboard recycling service. Mission drivers will pick up cardboard either weekly or every other week from your new business location---and at one-fourth the monthly cost of other recycling vendors.
You purchased an appliance or large tool for business or home use. It came packed in huge blocks of Styrofoam. You assume this packing material is recyclable and break it into pieces to fit it into your blue bin---only to find out that the waste-management company driver rejected your entire bin due to contamination because Styrofoam is not accepted. If you had access to a local waste and recycle directory, you would easily discover that Wenatchee’s own Dolco Packaging plant accepts Styrofoam and turns it into fruit packing and other useful products. A collection bin is located at the foot of Ferry Street in Wenatchee. In fact, Dolco now accepts ALL recyclable material labelled “#6” or “PS” (polystyrene).
You inherited several items from Aunt Marie, including an old indoor weather station. None of the gauges on the station have worked for years, but there is a large, mercury-filled thermometer. Knowing that mercury is highly toxic--the contents of that tiny thermometer bulb is capable of contaminating a 30-acre lake--you realize that you should dispose of the weather station properly. If you had access to a local waste and recycle directory, you would quickly discover that AERC Recycling in Hayward, California, offers mail-in “RecycleKits” for mercury-containing products such as thermometers and old thermostats. A visit to the AERC website provides you with all the pertinent details on how you can properly dispose of that lethal little thermometer.
There are endless examples like these. Please consider supporting Sustainable Wenatchee’s campaign to raise the funds necessary to launch an online waste and recycle directory for North Central Washington! To donate, visit Sustainable Wenatchee's GoFundMe Charity page here. You can also become a member of Sustainable Wenatchee for just $35/year (annually recurring donation) and your first $35 will go toward the Directory if you choose "Working Toward Less Waste" as your gift designation.
Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash