A local recycling advocate told the Lovell Town Council last Monday night that the Lovell recycling program is close to becoming a victim of its own success.
After giving a brief history of the program during the Aug. 26 meeting, Christy Fleming, the Chief of Interpretation at the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, said citizens are now placing about 600 pounds a week of cardboard in the cardboard trailer and some 1,060 pounds per week in the multi-bin trailer, both of which are located at the Red Apple parking lot.
That means the community is recycling 86,320 pounds or more than 40 tons of material per year. The trailers are hauled to the Powell recycling center by volunteers from Bighorn Canyon NRA, the U.S. Forest Service, the Town of Lovell and American Colloid.
“It’s a good problem, but it’s a problem,” Fleming said. “There is such a need for recycling cardboard, and the trailer is not big enough to take business cardboard. And if the trailer is full, people pile (material) on top (rather than waiting until the trailer is empty). Our people are spending a half hour to an hour cleaning up before they can take it to the recycling center.”
Making a rough estimation, Fleming figures it costs volunteers and agencies (and AMCOL) about $7,000 total per year to take the material to Powell, and the return is minimal, monetarily. She said about $259 in recycling revenue was donated to the Lovell Volunteer Fire Dept. Christmas basket program from a year and a half time span.
But she said the program brings people together and keeps nearly 90,000 pounds of waste material out of the North Big Horn County Landfill each year.
But with federal sequestration hitting the National Park Service, Fleming said she is unsure whether the Bighorn Canyon NRA staff can continue to shoulder the load (making the trip to Powell currently six times per month), especially as the program grows.
Fleming said the Bighorn Canyon budget was reduced 5 percent for the current fiscal year, and the staff is being asked to cut another 8 percent for next year. She said recent park superintendents have been supportive of recycling in the community, including acting supt. Cassity Bromley, but future superintendents may see the effort “as a benefit that the Town of Lovell should be doing.”
“If there’s an 8 percent cut, we will have fewer people to haul the trailer,” Fleming said. “Do we haul the trailer or take care of the lawn at Horseshoe Bend? Or work the front desk at the visitor center?
“We are totally willing to work on a solution. None of us wants to see this go away.”
Fleming also noted that the recycling center in Powell is struggling financially and would be damaged if material from Big Horn County were to stop coming over.
She noted that, at one time, there was a discussion about the town using an old garbage truck to compact material, especially cardboard, which could then be more easily transported to Powell. If a truck were available, more business material could be hauled, she said.
Now, she said, cardboard almost has to be hauled three times a week, asking, “Is there a better way to transport it? Because the two little trailers are overwhelmed.”
Seeking ideas, Fleming wondered if more volunteers could be recruited and whether certain businesses could help.
“We’re at a critical mass,” she said. “Either we don’t do it anymore or we come up with a plan. We’re at the end of the bridge. Either we jump off of it or we continue to build it.”
A bailer for cardboard has also been mentioned in the past, Fleming said, but she said such a device is too expensive to ever pay for itself unless a grant can be obtained for the purchase. A garbage truck would work almost as well, she said.
Most people are very good about what they take to the recycling trailers. A tire was left recently, as was an old waterbed, but she said the latter item may have been an honest mistake.
In the short term, Fleming said, the Park Service could simply use more volunteers to haul the recycling trailers to Powell until long-term solutions can be devised. She said people can sign up as volunteers for the Park Service and would be covered by the agency’s insurance while hauling the trailers.
“I would love eight volunteers to take the trailer once a month,” she said. “There is a lot more cardboard in the community that is not being recycled.”
For more information, call Fleming at the NPS visitor center at 548-5402.
by David Peck