By CHRISTINE COLBERT
For the Express
Hailey’s Construction Recycling Rebate Pilot Program reduced greenhouse gas emissions and saved a total $28,822 in building costs at the 11 participating projects, two city employees told the Blaine County commissioners Tuesday.
The program was part of the Hailey Community Climate Challenge, whose objective was to reduce greenhouse gasses through increased recycling. City employees Mariel Platt and Elizabeth Jeffrey said 27 metric tons of CO2 equivalent was reduced per project.
Using a grant awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency, the program measured construction recycling efforts while educating builders during three construction seasons from 2011 through 2013.
Platt and Jeffrey said diverted waste recycling averaged 58 percent.
A rebate of up to $500 was offered to building projects to cover recycling tipping fees, collection, container rental, delivery fee and transportation costs incurred by recycling construction waste. Those participating in the program were required to keep records and receipts and agree to a closing interview.
Platt and Jeffrey concluded that the rebate was a small reward in comparison to the much larger recorded financial savings for each participant. The program saved between $139 and $9,715 at each of the projects.
Despite ongoing confusion with identifying the multiple recycling options offered by local franchises, they said, the program succeeded in educating local builders about recycling resources. City employees worked closely with the participating construction crews, making sure bins were available to projects when they needed them.
“They’ve done a great job making it really easy for us,” said Troy Brown from Conrad Brothers. “The biggest thing was keeping out cross-contamination, and it’s really not that hard. Once a day, we’d go through and sort it out.”
The program used only a quarter of the budget allotted for the campaign, since the awarded rebates were fairly small. Going forward without the EPA grant, officials were unsure of whether a rebate was even necessary as an incentive, since contractors saved significantly more money in costs than they received in rebates.
“The economic impact was far greater than we thought it would be,” Platt said.
Platt and Jeffrey identified potential improvements to the program, including increased recycling opportunities for materials such as drywall and plastic sheeting, and better continuity between the jurisdictions’ franchise agreements.
The educational component of the program proved to be a valuable asset to local contractors and city employees, since some of the participants had never before considered recycling their construction waste.
“From a county perspective, there’s a real opportunity for education and outreach,” Commissioner Angenie McCleary said.
The commissioners and the Hailey employees discussed options for continuing the program. Local organizations such as the Environmental Resource Center will assist in future educational opportunities, and recycling bins will still be made available through local franchise agreements.
“Having been around a few job sites, I know how much waste there is,” Commissioner Jacob Greenberg said. “There’s incentives built in, but I think maybe also there should be some requirements.”
Platt said the city is considering incorporating a recycling plan requirement with building applications in the future, for materials such as clean wood and cardboard.
“Also educating building staff and officials and having them be a resource, in my mind, makes the most sense,” she said.