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Recycling continues on pace in Lake County

POLSON — Although Flathead County’s recycling program will stop taking plastic and tin on Feb. 15, Lake County’s program continues on. 

That’s the word from Mark Nelson, program manager at Lake County’s Solid Waste Department. 

Nelson, whose been with the program since May 1, 2000, noted that Lake County’s program doesn’t mix plastics and tin together like Flathead County. 

“We have lots of trouble with contamination with recyclables, but less than Flathead County,” he said. 

Contamination of recycling products is usually due to what he calls “wishful recycling.” In other words, people put something in a recycling bin because they think it should be recycled. Some examples include: styrofoam, motor oil containers, small kitchen appliances and vacuum cleaners, plastic lawn chairs and plastic grocery store bags, the latter which can be recycled at local grocery stores. 

Solid Waste staff sorts some of these things, he said, but notes, “Every bit we have to sort raises the cost.” 

Lake County recycles Nos. 1 and 2 plastic bottles and mixed plastics — which pretty much counts every kind of plastic with numbers 1-7 that is not a bottle. Also recycled are corrugated (rippled) cardboard and brown paper sacks, newspaper and paper products such as cereal boxes, scrap metal and aluminum. 

Lake County bales its plastics and aluminum and transports them to Valley Recycling in Kalispell. Mixed paper is shipped loose to Valley Recycling too. 

The county also bales scrap metal — which includes “white goods,” such as bicycles, fencing and steel — and bids it out. The current bid winner is Pacific Recycling of Missoula, which picks it up. Cardboard is baled and picked up by Sage Recycling of Wyoming. 

Recycling provides revenue for the county and that helps keeps costs down, Nelson said, noting the county ships all of its trash to the Missoula landfill for $45 a ton. Lake County raised its solid waste fee last year to $160, which was the first time that had happened in 13 years, he said. The old fee was $135. 

The revenue brought in from these recyclables differs from month to month, he said. Recent examples include: 4.875 cents per pound for Nos. 1 and 2 plastic bottles, 1.25 cents per pound for mixed plastics, 1.24 cents per pound for mixed paper, 22.75 cents per pound for aluminum, $122 per ton for scrap metal and $100 a ton for corrugated cardboard. 

Recyclables in Lake County can be taken to the transfer station off North Reservoir Road between Polson and Pablo or to drop-off locations on Seventh Avenue West in Polson near the skate park, near the Joe McDonald Activities Center in Pablo and next to Harvest Foods in Ronan. A cardboard-only container is located on Lake Mary Ronan Road in Proctor. 

Lake County’s landfill, 3500 Kerr Dam Road, was closed for most garbage in 2005. It now accepts only construction debris. The county charges $5 per cubic yard, said Nelson, noting a regular pickup bed contains about two cubic yards.

China has stopped taking a lot of recyclables due to contamination and for other factors, Nelson said. “I see it as an opportunity to build domestic markets,” he added. 

He encourages those who recycle to buy recycled products. Some examples include polar fleece and carpet, both of which can be made from plastic. Carpet made out of plastic bottles won’t stain, he said. 

“It’s the same as any other commodity. If there’s no demand for it, there’s not market for it,” he said. 

The county conducts an annual “e-waste” event in May. This includes most electronics but not vacuum cleaners, light bulbs or old cathode ray tube TVs, for example. The county only accepts flat screen TVs for recycling. 

The transfer station accepts household hazardous waste, such as weed spray and pesticides, by appointment. It does not accept other types of hazardous waste. Nelson recommends adding kitty litter or Floor-Dry to old paint until no liquid remains and putting it in the trash. 

The transfer station is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except state holidays. For more information, call 883-7323. 

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