Blue bin special

City's recycling program sees dramatic increase

Mark Zielfelder, recycling driver for Wast Management, operates his truck's arm to unload a recycling bin on his Coeur d'Alene route Friday during his shift. Participation in the recycling program has doubled since new bins were distributed.

COEUR d'ALENE - Matt Kurkowski is one of the few who isn't mainstream by having switched to single stream.

Unlike many Coeur d'Alene residents, Kurkowski hasn't made the leap to the more inclusive recycling system since the city implemented it in October.

"I do believe in it, I guarantee I totally believe in it," Kurkowski said. "But right now I just haven't used it."

Put him in the minority.

Since the 16,000 blue recycling totes were rolled out, participation has increased by 100 percent. Now, around 54 percent of Coeur d'Alene citizens recycle, up from 27 percent when the city relied on the smaller, less-inclusive blue bins.

In this case, double the participation means nearly triple the tonnage. Waste Management collected 120,000 pounds in its first month of collection - a 140 percent increase in materials.

But in the last few weeks the volume is closer to three times its original amount, said Keith Lund, waste management spokesman.

"I would say we didn't quite expect this much," he said. "We expected a fair increase, but I'd say it's a little bit more than expected. I think the convenience is the No. 1 factor in that."

Essentially, residents dump everything in the bin and let the truck sort it out. More plastics, office paper and cardboard are some of the additions that increased recyclables from seven to 17.

"It's greatly reduced the amount I throw away," said Jeanette Dunn, Coeur d'Alene resident, "Now I can get a smaller garbage bin."

Dunn had brought a bigger trash can before the city made the switch to single stream that reduced that need. She also noticed her guests from other areas were used to recycling items that Coeur d'Alene didn't before - but now does.

"They were always putting stuff in my recycle bin that couldn't be recycled," she said. "I think it's about time."

There had to be one hiccup, however, and that's weather.

Collection crews can't navigate through alleys with so much snow, so residents are being asked to put their recycling and garbage bins on the main street fronting their homes until spring.

Snow's the reason Kurkowski hasn't jumped on board, too. He has been too busy digging out before he sets his 64-gallon bin out, he said.

Some items haven't been recycled as much either, and they should be. Those include cereal boxes, cracker boxes and junk mail, according to the city.

But the program's early success has the city's collector, Bluebird Recycling in Coeur d'Alene, considering expanding its facility to handle the loads, said Troy Tymesen, city finance director. The area is also looking to locate a material recovery station in the area as neighboring towns possibly make the switch to single stream.

Meanwhile, the next phase will be implementing commercial single-stream recycling, which the city hopes to provide by March.

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