Things are looking up when it comes to Ogden area recycling.
A shake-up from overseas drove recycling costs up and, once officials in China decided to stop taking certain materials, Utahns had to re-learn what to toss in their blue bins. Ogdenites were apparently slow to clean up their act, with audits finding nearly half of the recycling stream was unusable garbage. Then Weber County’s local recycling handler, Recycled Earth, was on the brink of closure when it had more smelly trash than it could manage.
The situation seems to have improved slightly.
First, Ogden residents seem to be becoming more mindful about what they’re putting in their recycling bins. Part of that motivation likely came from strict city penalties.
“I think the main thing is, we’re trying to educate people,” said Vincent Ramos, Public Service Operations manager for Ogden City.
Starting in May, city waste collectors began inspecting recycling bins for non-recyclable garbage. Those caught tossing the wrong materials in the bins received a “strike.” Three strikes and a household loses their recycling bin for a year, although residents can remove a strike by attending recycling education workshops.
“Usually what we’re finding is a lot of green waste — branches, yard clippings, things like that. Not necessarily garbage,” Ramos said.
He asks city residents to remember they can dump that green waste for free at the city facility located at 1875 Monroe Blvd.
Ramos said 20 households lost their recycling privileges in May, 19 lost them in June and 13 have lost them so far for the month of July.
“But think about this. We have a little over 20,000 recycling cans in the system,” Ramos said. “So (that) really isn’t too bad.”
So far this month, the city has issued 98 first strikes and 24 second strikes.
The city’s free recycling workshops are offered at 2 p.m. every Friday, held at the Ogden Public Works Building at 133 West 29th St.
Meanwhile, the messy situation at Recycling Earth seems to have cleared, too.
Local health officials and inspectors with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality slapped the recyclers with a June 15 deadline to move their waste inside an under-construction building after the facility began attracting flocks of gulls and annoying neighbors with a putrid stench.
“They have mitigated the bird issues out there,” said Pat Sheehan, an inspector with DEQ. “They’ve reduced some of material coming in that was causing problems.”
Ramos said the facility is currently in compliance with their conditional use permit.
While Recycled Earth’s operators have yet to receive occupancy for the new building, owner Amy Rawson said they expect to get city approval by early August and have all their material moved inside by September.
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“We think we’re moving forward in a positive way,” Rawson said.
Rawson said she’s been busy working with DEQ and getting the new building ready so she hasn’t been able to do another audit on Ogden’s recycling. But she said the stream seems to have improved.
“Keep everything as clean as you can. We still see plastic sacks,” she said. “Those are recyclable if you send them to the right source. But they can’t be sent across equipment with moving parts.”
That means all thin-film plastics need to be kept out of curbside recycling bins, including bread bags and plastic wrapping.
Meanwhile, Rawson said her staff is working to make sure all the recyclable materials they bale and ship are as clean as possible so they can find more buyers, which keeps costs low for Weber County recycling programs.
“We’ve had a large stockpile of material. Just this week we’ve done a lot of shipping out. It’s affecting the price — you have to take what you can get to alleviate our stock,” she said.
Rawson said relief seems to be coming as Weber County residents become more careful, her own processing equipment gets upgraded and global markets adjust to change. But while there’s a silver lining, the recycling industry isn’t exactly looking at a bright future.
“I hate to say I’m optimistic,” Rawson said. “It’s just the nature of this business, I guess. You can’t foresee anything ... It’s got to improve. Otherwise I don’t know what we wake up and come to work for.”