By Shelley Dumas, Idaho County Recycling Committee
Last month as the sun came up, the vehicles showed up and the recycling bins filled up at Fenn and Kooskia, there was a profound sense of joy and satisfaction among site volunteers and Idaho County Recycling (ICR) committee members as a record-setting 18 tons of recyclables were wheeled away to market. It’s hard to believe one could get so emotional about diverted garbage—-but every can, magazine and jug spells s-u-c-c-e-s-s. Since a percentage of the market value is returned to us, the more we collect, the more we earn. What makes all of this so phenomenal is that it was exactly a year ago that the seeds were replanted to grow a recycling program in our vast neighborhood. This seems a good time to review our past, present and future.
PAST With a spin on the old adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”, a diverse group of squeaks, who had expressed concern about the lack of recycling opportunities in the county, were summoned by Commissioner Rockwell to become the ground-breaking I.C. Recycling Task Force in March ’09. For 90 days this citizen committee researched and pondered options that would be cost-neutral to the county. Buoyed by the results of a county-wide electronic survey with over 800 positive responses, the task force presented its recommendations in June. With absolutely no money but with the absolute belief that Idaho County residents would support a recycling program, a well-greased wheel was ready to roll in October ’09 with Lewis-Clark Recycling providing the equipment and expertise.
PRESENT With the help of LCSC’s Small Business Development Center, the ICR committee is formulating a business plan which will be used to define a permanent organization and distribute the responsibilities between Administrative, Funding, Human Resources, Site Search and Education committees. If one of those categories sounds of interest to YOU, do not hesitate to pick up the phone –-right now!—and call Janie (983-2843), Liz (926-7231) or Shelley (983-2821) to volunteer. We need fresh voices and new bodies for this adventure.
Future A frequent and understandable question is: Beyond the feel-good aspect of recycling as a civic responsibility, what individual, economic benefits will there be for recyclers? Hopefully, the renegotiations of solid waste contracts in Idaho County will reflect the significant tonnage removed from the waste stream through recycling efforts. As those negotiations begin, citizen input will be a critical part of the public involvement process.
In the meantime, recycling WILL continue at the Kooskia and Fenn locations. Since this is still a very young program it is unlikely that new sites will be developed any time soon although that primary goal is included in the business plan. The ICR committee understands the inconvenience for outlying recyclers and is grateful for the plucky dedication of all patrons. Consider this: In the early days of the task force, one member wistfully hoped that a recycling program could divert 100 tons of refuse within a year. We’ve accelerated from 0-56 tons in FIVE MONTHS, fueled by volunteer energy and residents’ support. If minimum wages had been paid for all the volunteer hours invested so far, the total would be over $10,000, In addition there have been the gratuitous use of the two collection sites (THANK YOU Primeland and the City of Kooskia!), donated supplies and monetary contributions which have made this a tremendously successful undertaking at neutral-cost to the county. County officials have, however, been cooperative and generous in providing Idaho County Recycling an umbrella for liability, networking and accounting.
Life is Good. “Do what you like and like what you do” –but don’t forget to recycle March 20 and 21!