We Can Recycle More in the Flathead

By Beacon Staff

In fiscal year 2006, the hard working people at the Flathead County Solid Waste District disposed of 125,318 tons of solid waste. Valley Recycling recycled a total of 6,000 tons of material in 2006. That included mixed paper, cardboard, #1 and #2 plastics, and non-ferrous metals. That’s a recycling rate for the Flathead Valley of less than 5 percent. We as a community can do better then that!

As more people and businesses relocate to our beautiful Flathead Valley, the amount of material going into the landfill and being handled by the Flathead County Solid Waste District, increases as well. This leads to increased operating costs as well as decreased capacity to handle our waste. With the high property values it’s unlikely we will be able to afford or permit another landfill in Flathead County, thus forcing us to truck our waste elsewhere. The closest location would be Missoula, if it were able to handle the additional waste.

Diesel fuel is now over $4 a gallon and continues to rise. Local municipalities and solid waste hauling businesses would be forced to pass on additional operating costs to consumers. Flathead County residents now pay a minimal fee of $80 per year in taxes to dispose of trash at our local landfill. Kalispell residents are charged $8.50 per month to have their trash hauled away. Those are some of the lowest disposal fees there are in the country. Colorado, which is demographically similar to Montana, is charging $14 per month on the average. Dumping fees in other states range from $50 to $80 per load to dispose of trash. The Flathead Valley charges $31.05 per ton in tipping fees. Just imagine how expensive this will be in the future. We need to do something now to prolong the life of our landfill. The good news is that we can prolong this process by recycling.

Other communities in Montana are doing a better job of recycling than we are here in the Flathead. Statewide, Montana recycles 18 percent of the solid waste generated annually. Montana recently updated and revised the Integrated Waste Management Plan to provide recommendations for strategies to increase recycling. The plan also sets new targets for recycling and composting. By 2015, Montana recycling and composting should divert 22 percent of solid waste from landfills. We have a lot of work to do since the Flathead Valley is nowhere near those numbers. The Flathead is way behind and will continue to lose ground if we don’t significantly reduce the amount of solid waste making its way to the landfill.

There are seven bin locations offered by the Flathead County Solid Waste District in the county for recyclables: Coram, Columbia Falls, Creston, Bigfork, Kila, Somers, and Lakeside. It has bins for cardboard, paper, plastic #1, plastic #2, tin and aluminum cans. Locations in Kalispell are behind the old Tidymans store, two at Albertson’s, one at Evergreen Square, and one at Valley Recycling. Valley Recycling, 1410 U.S. Highway 2 W. in Kalispell, is open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Steel, 105 Montclair Dr. in Kalispell, is open weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for recycling. There is also a recycling drop at North Valley Recycling, 5445 U.S. Highway 93 South of Whitefish.

Valley Recycling sponsored Earth Day last week at Depot Park and sponsors Erase your Ewaste May 3 at Valley Recycling. Neither of these events would be possible without the hard work, assistance and dedication of the following businesses and groups: Evergreen Disposal, Flathead County Solid Waste District, Kalispell Downtown Association Merchants, Kalispell Parks and Recreation, Montana Conservation Corp, KZMN, KOFI, KALS, KCFW TV, KAJ TV, Community of Resource Educators (CORE), Glacier Bank, Plum Creek, Kalispell Tree Commission and the Waste Not Project. More information on these events or on recycling may be found at valleyrecycling.com or by calling 406-257-4302.

Robert Morrow is the manager of Valley Recycling