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Laramie Recycling Program Performs Well & Looks to Expand [AUDIO]

(Courtesy Adam Porter)

Over the past few months we have had quite a few questions about Laramie’s recycling program both on our site itself and through the Laramie Live Facebook page. Many people living in apartments have said that they would love to recycle but of course they do not have the opportunity to participate unless they use ARK’s program. Others wondered why the city doesn’t accept glass and other items, so we decided to have Richard Elliot, Laramie’s director of Public Works, join us on the Laramie Live Morning Radio Show to talk about these questions. Read on below or listen to the whole audio interview at the bottom of this story.

One of the most common complaints about the recycling program has seemed to come from residents living in apartment complexes around town where the program is not available. You will be happy to hear that the city is looking into this; here is what they had to say.

We are going to work to roll out that program to several additional accounts. Those are going to include our larger residential units and also some of our businesses, and our timeline to do that is going to be in the Spring. We need to work with city council and make sure they are on board with what we would like to do and establish a fee structure that is equitable for that. You know we rolled out 8,000 accounts at once and now we want to go back and look at those 2,000 odd additional accounts that we can offer that service and allow everyone the opportunity to recycle.

While Laramie’s new recycling program does accept items from newspapers to plastics, one major exclusion is glass. Here is what Richard Elliot had to say about why glass is not accepted; it really does make quite a bit of sense.

Here is what’s going on with the glass. You know many locations that recycle, many cities, are very close to materials recycling facilities. We call those MRFs for short and when you are close to a MRF, within just a few miles, it really isn’t a big concern to have everything compacted. That’s not the case up here as we have considerable driving distances and times to get our materials down to a MRF. We have to try and take advantage of compacting that material and getting the best, most dense quantity of material transported. Now the problem with glass is that when you compact glass it has a tendency to break, and when all of those bottles break they contaminate other materials. You end up with glass shards in the paper, in the cardboard, etc… It’s impossible to separate it and those loads become contaminated to the point where they are not usable and they end up in a landfill somewhere. So to avoid that and make use of those materials we simply cannot allow glass and this is a practice observed across the country for cities that have long travel times to MRFs.

Of course while the city’s program does not deal with glass, the local ARC Recycling program does. They recommend using this alternative if you would like to recycle the glass. One thing to keep in mind is that the city’s program is still very much in its infancy, and it will continue to be refined as time goes on. The City of Laramie has been working with both Cheyenne and Casper to get their long term observations since those cities recycling programs have existed for a longer period of time.

In general people have also been curious as to just how well the program is going and how much people are recycling. People want to know if they have been recycling the right things and so on. Here is the latest report.

We have been working obviously with Waste Management but also with the University of Wyoming in trying to gather data and take a look at exactly how the program is going. We did just yesterday receive our first audit from Waste Management for materials that we have delivered down there, and it is very encouraging. We have had only about a 6% contamination rate for a selection of materials that they have looked at, and that is very low. We also know that there is a lot of work and education out there. For example some of the items that people are still unsure about like pizza boxes, plastic bags, shredded paper, obviously glass, and paper towels. Those are all materials that cannot be recycled because they just are not accepted by Waste Management. There’s a whole list of materials that we do receive but there are obviously many materials that we don’t receive. We are going to continue to work with the University, with Waste Management, with our customers, to try and define what can be recycled and the problems that we have seen so far with materials that are not recyclable.

We would like to thank Richard Elliot for taking the time answer questions posed by our readers and everyone who interacted with us as well. Feel free to continue the conversation on facebook or in the comments section at the bottom of this page. Here is the complete audio interview if you would like to listen in. All of our past shows can also be listened to on the radio show home page.

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