Utah slow to recycle; measures taken to improve a



    In Minneapolis, Minn., 26-year-old Jenette Syring finished reading the newspaper over her lunch of a cold tuna fish sandwich and a bottle of Sangria.

    As she went to throw away the remains of her sandwich and her drink, she was confronted with five trash cans: one for aluminum cans, one for green glass, one for clear glass, one for nonrecyclable trash and food items and one for newsprint.

    Throwing her bottle into the green glass recycling bin, she commented on the extent the city went to to make sure people recycled.

    “More cities should be like Minneapolis,” she said. “They want people to recycle, so they sort of throw it in your face. It’s like, who wouldn’t recycle when you are faced with five different trash cans every time you go to throw something away?”

    In Utah, residents who want to recycle struggle to find ways to do so. They are increasing the pressure on state legislature and city government to make recycling less of a burden and more of a convenience.

    “I would recycle if it were more convenient, but you have to take all the recyclable goods in your car and drive five different places all over town to get to the recycling bin you want,” said Amy Durham, a senior from San Clemente, Calif.

    A curb-side program or more recycling bins would increase the likelihood that more residents would recycle, she said.

    Dave Gunn, public service director in Provo, said he understands Gardner’s point of view.

    “Most people who come from other places are shocked that we do so little to recycle here in Utah, but they have to understand that most states mandate recycling, and Utah does not,” Gunn said.

    “Utah spends practically nothing on recycling, and I would say they are a poor recycling state mostly because nobody cares about it,” he said. “Here you throw away an aluminum can and no one cares. We need to better educate the public so they will want to recycle.”

    Overall Utah has not had a big incentive to recycle because it hasn’t been faced with landfill problems like other regions of the country, said Brad Mertz, representative for the Southwest Public Recycling Association of Utah.

    “Utah also doesn’t face the problem of tipping fees — the fee that is charged to have garbage hauled to a landfill — like other cities have,” he said. “Here we pay an overage of $18 to $20 a ton, whereas in places like New York, the fees average around $200 a ton. If tipping fees were that high, it would give a city a pretty good incentive to recycle.”

    Utah is slowly taking steps to encourage more recycling.

    In February, the recycling market development zones bill, which went into effect July 1, was passed by the state.

    Creator of the bill, Rep. Grant Protzman, said the bill, the third of its kind in the United States, is designed to allow local governments to encourage manufacturing enterprises to use at least 50 percent recycled materials in their products.

    “In recycling, that is the missing link,” Protzman said. “This creates a recycling manufacturing zone.”

    The bill, a three year project, gives the power to local government to choose incentives such as local tax breaks, exemptions from license fees, utility access, and infrastructure development for businesses who meet the minimum requirements.

    “The state will then kick in with a tax credit, so these businesses won’t have to pay income tax on their sales up to a specific dollar amount,” Protzman said.

    Because recycling programs depend on market demand, this bill could offer a solution for part of the market problems faced by Utah.

    “Most people in the recycling business know that there is a great deal of fluctuation in the market. Because of that, many recycling companies have gone out of business,” Mertz said.

    One recycling program thriving in Provo is yard waste recycling.

    Yard waste recycling keeps green waste away from landfills and prevents contamination of the groundwater supply, said Pete Martinez, Provo’s sanitation manager.

    Protzman said, “Overall, we just need to increase the awareness of recycling in Utah, so there will be a demand for it, so people will know what is available and will take advantage of that. With the help of increased education, expanding recycling programs, and the zone bill, Utah is on its way to becoming a state that cares about the environment.

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