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Recycling's next step.

Byline: The Register-Guard

John Hire says that a couple of decades ago, he and other trash haulers speculated that household garbage would one day be the smallest part of their residential solid-waste business. Those musings seemed far-fetched at the time, but that day is about to arrive in Eugene. Hire is general manager of Sanipac, which will soon distribute 90-gallon carts for residential customers' recyclable materials.

People will be encouraged to toss their unsorted recyclables - except glass - into the wheeled carts, which will be emptied every other week. The recycling carts will stand alongside the 65-gallon carts for yard debris that most households in Eugene received two years ago, which are also emptied on alternating weeks. Smallest of all will be the 32-gallon garbage cans.

The switch to the big recycling carts is made possible by the development of a means to sort commingled recyclables - plastic, newsprint, cardboard, tin cans and all the rest. The sorting occurs at a big automated plant in Clackamas, which processes 400 tons of recyclables each day. Until now, recyclable materials had to be sorted before they were collected, and Sanipac and other haulers provided box-like plastic bins for that purpose.

Hire says the switch to commingled recycling should lead to an immediate 15 percent jump in the recycling rate, which has leveled off locally over the past several years. It may be the only way to achieve an increase of that magnitude. Between 86 percent and 93 percent of Eugene residents already recycle, so a higher rate can be achieved only by getting people to put fewer recyclables in the trash.

The key is to make recycling easier. It's fairly simple already, once the proper habits have been cultivated. But with the big recycling carts, it will no longer be necessary to flatten cans or cardboard boxes, or to sort everything into separate piles. Just put it into the cart. Recycling will be as easy as tossing out the trash.

The only drawback to this plan will be the addition of another cart, this one even bigger than the previous two. Hire stresses that the 90-gallon carts take up only as much floor space as one-and-a-half blue recycling boxes, and that the stacks of newsprint and cardboard in garages and cupboards will be consolidated in the recycling cart. What's more, the cart has a lid that will keep recyclable materials dry, reducing the amount of paper recyclables ruined by being left out in the rain.

Still, the three carts will present a storage problem for some households.

Regrettably, Hire says it's not possible to use a single cart for recyclables and yard debris, filling it with each type of material on alternating weeks. The recyclables would become contaminated by such things as grass clippings. Sanipac could, however, give customers the option of ordering a smaller recycling cart such as the 65-gallon containers that some other haulers will be using. Some other haulers are also allowing customers to continue using the blue boxes if they prefer.

On balance, however, a significant increase in the recycling rate is desirable - it will extend the life of the Short Mountain landfill, and allow for the recovery of resources that otherwise go to waste. Recycling will become nearly as easy as it possibly can be. The opportunities for further improvements would be in the area of generating fewer materials needing disposal or recycling.
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Title Annotation:Those 90-gallon carts are coming; Editorials
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 15, 2003
Words:564
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