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Public gets behind recycling
April 18, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis

Photo by Rick Hurt - These bales of recyclable materials are ready for shipment to Waste Management in Denver. About seven tons of trash is kept out of the Gering landfill every week because of the recycling program.

People today are becoming increasingly aware of the need to keep to a minimum the amount of materials they throw away – and recycling plays a big part in that.

Since 2012, the City of Gering has been offering single-stream recycling. Residents no longer have to sort recyclables – just put them in the blue containers for pickup up every other week. However, they can’t accept glass or plastic bags.

Rick Hurt, Gering’s director of environmental services, said about 200 people have requested the blue recycling containers. A $4 monthly charge is added to utility bills for the service.

“We’ve also added about 15 to 20 businesses,” Hurt said. “This has made our recyclable product better because most of their waste is cardboard.”

Once the material is baled, it’s sent to Waste Management in Denver to be recycled. So far, the program is paying for itself.
Hurt said the program has grown to where they produce about six or seven one-ton bales a week. That represents material that is kept out of the landfill. It takes about 30 bales to fill a tractor trailer, so the landfill is sending a load to Denver every four or five weeks. When the program first started, it took about five months to pack the first trailer load.

“We’re real happy with how the program has grown,” Hurt said, “and so far, it’s not costing us anything. As the quality of the recyclables improves in the future, we might even turn a profit.”

The City of Scottsbluff, which shared the landfill with Gering, has also implemented the recycling program.

Hurt also mentioned that the landfill will have free days on April 20 and 27, where residents can bring in up to 10 years of trash, and up to four passenger tires and two appliances. It’s available to residents of Gering, Scottsbluff and Mitchell. Bring a utility bill and a photo ID.

Also, the tree dump near the Gering lagoons on east U St. will be open the week of April 22 for the disposal of trees, brush and yard waste.

While the Cities of Gering and Scottsbluff handle household recyclables, Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful (KSGB) schedules recycling days for numerous other common household items.

Kathy Kropuenske, KSGB executive coordinator, said their group is active throughout the year, especially during the currently ongoing Great American Cleanup. On Saturday, April 20 an electronics recycling day is scheduled for the public to get rid of old computer, monitors and other electronic equipment.

“Larger loads of electronics need to go the Scottsbluff Environmental Services at 609 E. 2nd St.,” Kropuenske said. “We’ll accept smaller amounts from 10 a.m. to noon at Main Street Market.”
Because many electronic devices contain hazardous chemicals, proper recycling is important.

Kropuenske said they work with responsible recyclers to assure the electronics receive proper disposal.

A risky area that most people don’t think about is the disposal of computer hard drives. If someone doesn’t erase all the data on the hard drive, it can open up the person to a security risk.

“A few years ago, a lot of the identity theft was coming from overseas,” she said. “Recyclers would ship discarded electronics to other countries and people would sometimes use the data for their own purposes. The recycler we work with destroys all the hard drives, so they don’t become a future problem.”

Also on April 20 at Main Street Market, KSGB is accepting used oil, antifreeze, plastic bags, batteries and car tires. People can also have their old documents shredded at the bank.

Kropuenske said one of their annual events isn’t technically a recycling program, but is important. On May 4, they will accept expired and outdated prescription drugs for disposal.

And on June 1 at Nebraska Public Power District, KSGB will accept used bicycles, which will be refurbished and sent back into the community for people in need.

“It’s getting better in the community than when I first started,” Kropuenske said, “but we always need to do better and recycle whatever we can.”

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