The Hailey City Council on Monday took a look at possible changes to the city’s waste collection model, kicking off a series of deliberations on recycling, food and yard waste, and new composting technology.

Like the rest of the Wood River Valley, the city of Hailey currently uses a multi-stream recycling process that requires residents to pre-sort recyclables into three separate bins for pickup—plastic containers, mixed paper and metal cans—and drop off glass and cardboard at nearby recycling centers.

In a presentation to the council on Monday, Resilience Coordinator Rebecca Bundy said moving to a single-stream curbside pickup model would mean that residents could place all recyclables, including cardboard, in one bin.

“[The city] is looking at the effectiveness of single versus multi-stream recycling, whether there might be a positive effect for multifamily developments,” Bundy said. “Right now, it’s really hard to get people to do their sorting properly, especially those who don’t have [home] ownership.”

Bundy said a move to single stream would “close to double” the amount of material that gets recycled, though it would likely come with a higher price tag and contamination rate.

“Eleven percent of [single stream curbside] material would end up in the landfill. However, we know that much more material picked up at local recycling centers ends up in the landfill because it’s so badly contaminated,” she said. “Curbside is most effective.”

Single-stream pickup would be more pricey than multi-stream because recyclables would need to be trucked to Boise’s Western Recycling center, Bundy said, where they would be sorted by machine in a “dirty MRF,” or materials recovery facility.

Though the county derives some revenue from corrugated cardboard, tin and aluminum, she noted that hand-sorting and bailing at the Ohio Gulch facility carries a “very substantial cost.” Bundy added that Clear Creek Disposal owner Mike Goitiandia is working on a cost-benefit analysis of single versus multi-stream recycling, which should be available in two weeks.

“We’ll be reaching out to the community, asking people if they would be willing to pay more [in franchise fees] for single-stream recycling—if that’s a benefit they’re interested in,” she said.

The city of Hailey is also considering the retirement of its recycling centers, such as the one at the Park & Ride lot, primarily due to contamination issues. The centers have also garnered several “noise and visual nuisance complaints,” Bundy said.

“Single-stream curbside pickup could make recycling centers unnecessary because you’d have cardboard and everything else picked up,” she said. “We’d still have Ohio Gulch as a supervised center.”

Winn’s Compost talks

food and yard waste

In another presentation to the council on Monday, Winn’s Compost owner Winn Weaver gave an overview of his facility’s capacity for curbside food and yard waste pick-up.

The family-run business—in Ohio Gulch, across the road from the Southern Idaho Solid Waste transfer station—accepts food waste, yard waste and solid waste, turning the material into garden and landscape compost and valuable topsoil. Weaver said landscapers drop off grass cuttings, wood chips, sod, branches, leaves and other yard waste, and restaurants and grocery stores also drop off expired food and table scraps.

Winn’s Compost typically receives 550 cubic yards of incoming material per day, with heavier loads over Christmastime. Weaver said the facility could easily triple its food and yard waste intake.

“We’re already geared up for that. Even if we were picking up truckloads from everybody in town, I don’t see a huge volume increase there,” he said. “This year alone we’ve [processed] 680 cubic yards of food waste and 2,400 yards of landscape compost, taking it out of the landfill stream and selling it out to the community as compost—that’s pretty good news.”

Weaver said while the center’s landscape waste collection has been robust, its food waste collection has dwindled recently during the pandemic.

“Food waste is our highest seller, and we haven’t gotten enough material to process,” he said. “I’d love to see a high participation rate from the community.”

Bundy said studies on Blaine County’s waste stream show that food and yard waste make up about 30 percent of what is hauled to the landfill, and just trucking the material to Ohio Gulch has a large greenhouse gas impact.

“Getting biomass out of our waste stream is extremely important because biomass creates methane when it decomposes,” she said.

Council President Kaz Thea and Mayor Martha Burke expressed enthusiasm about the idea of yard waste and food scrap pickup.

“I think there’s a desire to move forward with this and would love to put out a survey to the community,” Burke said.

The Hailey City Council will further discuss wastewater treatment plans, food and yard waste, and bear-proof trash containers—proposed by the county-wide Wildlife Smart Communities coalition—next month.

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