HURON – A voluntary, single-stream recycling program hailed by many as long overdue will start within the next few months, and already more than 350 households have signed up.
If that number reaches about 1,500, the city Solid Waste Department will pick up the blue and yellow recycling containers on the same day it dumps the brown garbage containers and the green compost ones.
Solid Waste Superintendent Dale Fortin has been educating the public about the upcoming recycling program with presentations to organizations and school children.
Although the program is to be voluntary, all households will see a slightly higher utility bill each month. It’s the only way to make it feasible.
“There is a cost to do this and that cost is spread out among everybody,” Fortin said at the Beadle County Democratic Forum on Thursday.
Like the composting program launched in 1999, the popularity of recycling may start off slowly and then build.
However, as of late in the week more than 350 households had signed up, either through the city’s website or with a direct email to
When the yard waste program was instituted, only 500 households asked for the green containers.
But out of 4,442 households in Huron, yard waste is now picked up at 3,800 residences.
Four years ago, city officials collaborated with the state on a proposal to convert solid waste into fuel pellets that could be burned at ethanol plants.
It is not feasible because of insufficient volume, but out of that study came the genesis of the recycling program. The city is expected to hear by the end of March on its application for grant funds to buy the containers and truck as well as advertising costs.
Fifty-three percent of what people throw away is recyclable, while the 47 percent balance is considered landfill material.
The initial goal is to reduce the waste stream now buried in the Pierre landfill by 25 percent.
Huron sends four semi truckloads carrying a total of 100 tons to Pierre each week. Cutting that by 25 tons would save one trip and $1,500 a week, money that would be available to send recyclables to a sorting center in either Aberdeen or Sioux Falls.
A major component of Fortin’s presentation, of course, are examples of what can and cannot be put into the recycling containers. Some materials that are unacceptable today may be recyclable later as Huron gets farther into the program and develops other markets.
Acceptable items include:
• Junk mail.
• Shredded paper that is placed in transparent bags.
• Plastics such as milk, food and beverage containers. Residue should be rinsed or wiped out.
• Newspapers and magazines.
• Tin and aluminum cans. Labels can remain on the cans.
• Cardboard, whether glossy or not.
Other materials are not acceptable, such as PVC plastic and plastic toys because they are made with a different kind of chemical.
Wax cardboard that vegetables and fruit come in is not acceptable. Electronics are not acceptable and neither is glass.
While many would like to see glass on the list of acceptable items, it causes problems when it’s in the sorting stream.
“With this single-stream process, if you throw the glass in there and it breaks it causes a huge problem for those that are sorting,” Fortin said.
Of the 53 percent in the waste stream that is recyclable, only 7 percent is made up of glass. A separate way to recycle glass may be possible in the future. Many companies are also transitioning from products in glass containers to plastic.
It’s possible the city may also be able to develop a recycling plan for electronics later.
“First we tackle the easy stuff and then work on some of the other stuff,” he said.
While the city will pick up the blue and yellow recycling containers on a weekly basis, people are encouraged not to put them out at the curb or alley unless they are more than just minimally full.
“Some of you won’t have much more than a third of the container in there at a time,” Fortin said. “What we want to do is not put out containers that are less than that so our trucks aren’t wasting fuel picking up a container that just has a few magazines in it.”
He also said people should also continue contributing to local paper and aluminum can drives that organizations have as fundraisers.
“We encourage people to keep doing that also,” he said.
By recycling just one product — plastic milk containers — Huron can greatly impact the environment.
The average family goes through two gallons of milk each week, and it means Huron is now burying nearly 9,000 milk containers on its weekly runs to Pierre.
“That’s in one week,” Fortin said. “But it takes 10,000 milk jugs to make a ton. So it takes a lot of milk jugs. But it’s just one product out of all of the products.”
As the volume of materials grows, Huron will be in a better position to either develop its own sorting facility or work with a private company to have one here.
While Fortin is hoping to have 750 households participating in the first year, nearly half of that number have already signed up and the program is still a few months away from starting.
If at least 1,500 households are on board, the city will pick up all of a household’s containers on the same day of the week. That way, people won’t have to try to remember which container gets dumped on what day.
When the city started grass collection 14 years ago, and initially had just 500 containers to pick up, it could cover all of that in one day.
“So the farther up we go on (recycling) containers going out right away the better the chances are that we’re going to pick (all of) it up on that same day,” Fortin said.
For the complete article see the 02-10-2013 issue.
Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-10-2013 paper.