SLCgreen is excited to introduce Chris Bell, Salt Lake City Waste & Recycling’s new Director.
The Sustainability Department is comprised of two divisions – the Energy & Environment (E&E) Division, which is the policy division that houses our energy, local food, business engagement, internal policy, and communications roles. And then there is the Waste & Recycling Divisionwhich is the operational side of our department. This division is responsible for the daily collection of garbage, trash, and recycling, and other special programs.
So we’re happy to welcome Chris to the Department where he’ll lead the Waste & Recycling Division.
Chris’ career in recycling started almost 20 years ago. He is passionate about using his skills to have a positive impact on the environment and is guided by his philosophy to create a strong legacy of conservation. Chris believes that building a sustainable future is our collective responsibility – and has the added benefit of being good business.
Chris’ work in recycling has taken him from Utah to Colorado to Texas and back. Beginning in paper recycling and moving on though operational and commercial management, Chris is highly qualified in recycling and waste management. He is driven to maintain a strong safety record as well as improve operations to deliver outstanding service to the community.
We are thrilled to have Chris on board to help guide our City towards zero waste and a strong recycling and composting system.
The Waste & Recycling Director oversees 60 staff working to collect garbage, recycling, and yard waste from over 42,000 residents in Salt Lake City.
Join us in giving Chris a warm welcome to the SLCgreen team!
In 2018, China’s National Sword policy forced the United States to stop sending recyclable materials to China. The limitations have led to changes to the recycling process in the U.S., and changes in the market for recycled materials, which has affected the overall financial cost of recycling.
While some materials had been sent to other countries, plastic pollution, as well as improper recycling practices, have caused some recyclers to rethink their approach.
In October of last year, Waste Management, Salt Lake City’s recycling processor,made the announcement that they will not export residential plastic waste. Rather than rely on sending materials to countries outside of China for processing, Waste Management is keeping plastic recycling domestic. Several other companies have adopted similar policies. That means that the plastics you recycle at home will be processed in North America.
By focusing on building domestic markets, Waste Management’s policy will help ensure plastics are properly recycled and that they don’t end up polluting the environment through inadequate processing, containment, or disposal overseas.
Plastics make up 11% of Salt Lake City’s waste stream (by weight). Luckily, Salt Lake City recycles a lot. In June of 2019, we recycled 585 tons of cans, bottles, paper, and cardboard! The city recycles or composts 42% of the waste collected from residents. Recycling is crucial to protecting the environment. Indeed, recycling on this scale helps save trees, water, and energy. Moreover, proper recycling helps prevent greenhouse gas emissions.
Waste Management’s shift to keeping plastic recycling domestic will help make recycling even better. Waste Management acknowledges the specific threat plastic pollution poses to our waterways, explaining that out of all countries, the U.S. is the twentieth highest contributor of marine debris.
Recycling residential plastic domestically helps to reduce the likelihood of this kind of pollution.
It’s 2020 already and we can hardly believe it! Salt Lake City finished out 2019 strong alongside 19 communities that opted into the Community Renewable Energy Act’s pathway to achieve net-100% renewable energy.
But that’s not all SLCgreen got up to in 2019. It was a busy year, and as a community, we have taken major strides in accomplishing our goals. See our full 2019 Year in Review here and read below for a few of the major highlights.
Thanks to all our partners in City government, other government agencies, non-profit associations, neighborhood groups, business partners, and community councils, we are continuing to make SLC more sustainable and resilient.
You can take a look at the 2017 and 2018 reports to see what we’ve been working on over the last few years. Before we set our sights on 2020, here are a few highlights from 2019!
Air Quality, Climate Change & Energy
After a three-year collaboration with Park City, Summit County, Rocky Mountain Power, and the state legislature, we successfully saw passage of House Bill 411 the “Community Renewable Energy Act” in the 2019 legislative session. The law establishes a legal pathway for communities with 100% clean energy goals to achieve them in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Power.
Expanded public EV charging infrastructure, increasing the total number of city-owned EV charging ports to 38, plus 16 at the airport.
With Utah Clean Energy, launched “Empower SLC,” a neighborhood energy efficiency program targeting the 84116 and 84104 neighborhoods to improve energy efficiency and conservation measures that reduce pollution and lower utility costs. As of September, over 450 households have been engaged, resulting in an estimated savings of 335,353 kWh per year!
Developed an energy after-school curriculum for youth groups and created a new partnership with YouthCity on programming for the Fall 2019 programs. This resulted in the adoption of “energy” as the central theme of their Science Fair.
Hosted the Elevate Buildings awards luncheon, recognizing first-year reporting commercial buildings with ENERGY STAR scores 75 and above and Mayoral recognition of exceptional performers.
Salt Lake City’s waste & recycling survey closed earlier this month. We are grateful for all of the feedback– we received nearly 6,200 responses, which is a record!
Now our team is busily combing through over 12,000 of your comments. We plan to compile these into a feedback summary in the new year. Stay tuned!
Waste & Recycling Tips
In the meantime, we’ve been reading a lot of questions about Salt Lake City’s waste & recycling services. So we thought this would be a good opportunity to share some answers, links, and helpful resources:
Go even further with waste diversion when you use the brown compost can for yard trimmings AND kitchen scraps. This includes veggie and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and paper filters, tea bags (no staples or string), and eggshells.
Does recycling even matter?
Yes! It absolutely makes a difference. For example, in June 2019, Salt Lake City residents recycled 585 tons of cans, bottles, paper, and cardboard. To put this in perspective, this saved the equivalent of 5,732 mature trees, 2,238 cubic yards of landfill airspace, enough water to meet the daily needs of 41,625 people, and enough electricity to fulfill the annual needs of 175 homes! All this recycling helped us avoid 2,027 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which makes for cleaner air too.
Multiply those numbers by 12 and you have the average impact of Salt Lake City’s curbside recycling program over the year. You are making a difference–thank you!
There is always a lot to do during the holidays, but before we tuck into our plant-based Thanksgiving dinners or go find the second-hand treasures to complete our holiday look, we want to take a minute to count our blessings and thank you!
Without your engagement in sustainable actions and participation in SLCgreen’s programs, we could not have the positive impact we do.
Sometimes it’s all too easy to think “What I do doesn’t matter” or “What difference is one person going to make?” But when you take that individual impact and add it up on a community scale, those little sustainability actions really do make a difference!
Take recycling. We can vouch for the impact all of you have on the thousands of tons of waste diverted from our landfill each year to recycling and compost.
So today, please join us in celebrating these aspects of our community that help us be stronger and more sustainable.
We’re always thankful for recycling!
Salt Lake City is working towards our zero waste goals.In June, we recycled 585 tons of cans, bottles, paper, and cardboard. To put this in perspective, this saved the equivalent of 5,732 mature trees, 2,238 cubic yards of landfill airspace, enough water to meet the daily needs of 41,625 people, and enough electricity to fulfill the annual needs of 175 homes! All this recycling helped us avoid 2,018 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which makes for cleaner air too!
Multiply those numbers by 12 and you have the average impact of Salt Lake City’s curbside recycling program over the year.
Your recycling is making a difference! Thank you!
We know that recycling has been in the news a lot lately. It’s gotten confusing. Some people are even wondering whether it’s “worth it” anymore. Numbers like the above remind us just how important it is. Thank you for continuing to recycle.
Here are some easy ways to keep up the good recycling habits this holiday season:
If you’re hosting a holiday party, consider using reusable dishes. We know that can be a challenge! Check out our small event recycling guide so that your guests know exactly what should go in the blue bin when it’s party time!
When you’re serving up the cranberry sauce or making pumpkin pie, make sure to clean your aluminum cans and put them in the recycling bin: Aluminum can be recycled over and over, and goes towards making everything from bikes to new cans!
The Saturday after Thanksgiving is #SmallBusinessSaturday. Buying locally-made goods supports our economy and is often a more sustainable way to shop. When you shop at a small local business, you support local artisans and business owners and reduce the environmental impacts associated with shipping and packaging!
One of our favorite places to find the most delicious treats is the Downtown Farmers Market. Their Winter Farmers Market is in full swing. Be sure to check out the local vendors for your holiday cooking and gift giving needs!
We want to take a minute to thank our SLCgreen team! Our readers, residents of Salt Lake City and beyond, are helping us reach our goals when it comes to reducing waste and building more sustainable communities. We hope you have a wonderful and sustainable holiday season!
So instead of letting the great pumpkin take up space in the landfill (where it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas), put your pumpkin into the compost bin!
(Remember to only put pumpkins without paint, wax, glitter or other non-organic decorations in the brown bin).
Garbage vs. Recycling?
Unless a helpful witch or wizard was able to transform all those candy wrappers into clean cardboard or aluminum, or if you send materials to a recycling program like TerraCycle, candy wrappers should always be put into the garbage can.
Salt Lake City Reaffirms Items Accepted in
City’s Curbside Recycling Program
With recent news that some Wasatch Front cities and towns are changing what is accepted in recycling bins, Salt Lake City reiterates that these changes do not affect our residents.
Draper, Midvale, Murray, Riverton, South Jordan and West Jordan recently announced that they are no longer accepting paper in residential bins, including “paper bags, paper, newspaper, magazines, junk mail, and cereal boxes,” according to Midvale City’s website.
Salt Lake City continues to accept all clean paper products—except shredded paper.
Additionally, the Wasatch Front Waste and
Recycling District (WFWRD), which serves over a dozen other cities in Salt Lake
County is not changing the materials accepted in their cans. In total there are
14 municipalities in Salt Lake County that are not changing: Salt Lake
City and the 13 cities in the Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District,
according to Pam Roberts, Executive Director of WFWRD.
In addition to paper, Salt Lake City accepts plastic containers, metal cans, and cardboard for recycling. Items should be clean and free from food residue, oils, or liquids.
“We have not made any new restrictions on what is accepted for recycling in Salt Lake City’s curbside program since early 2018,” said Lance Allen, Salt Lake City Waste & Recycling Division Director. “At that time, when China’s National Sword policy went into effect, we only restricted plastic bags and films, Styrofoam, and shredded paper. We also reiterated that recyclables should be clean. Residents should continue to recycle paper, plastic containers, cardboard, and cans as they normally would, and take pride in the beneficial impact they’re having on the environment.”
Taking a Cue from Annie Leonard, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Robert Swan
One side of this year’s truck wraps display useful mantras encouraging SLC residents to recycle. The other side features quotes from three prominent environmental activists:
Annie Leonard is the founder of The Story of Stuff Project, which advocates for reducing our consumption and being more thoughtful about where our stuff goes. As her truck wrap quote says: there’s no such thing as away.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an environmental activist and former senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He currently serves as president of the grassroots Waterkeeper Alliance. His quote succinctly emphasizes the impact of sustainable living on our country’s well being.
Echoing Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s sentiment, Robert Swan’s quote is a call to action for every individual to take steps towards protecting the environment. Robert Swan is a climate activist and the first person to walk to the North and South pole. His organization, 2041, works to educate the public about the impact of climate change on the environment, especially at the poles.
By quoting these leaders, the truck wraps pinpoint the importance of community action geared towards protecting the environment and building sustainable communities.
One of the easiest ways to follow in the footsteps of these activists is to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Is Recycling Still Worth It?
Presented on the flip sides of the trucks are statistics about SLC’s waste management habits. In particular, they emphasize the importance of proper waste diversion in the form of recycling and composting.
Does that surprise you? With recycling changing as markets adjusted to new rules from China on contamination, there has been question as to whether recycling is even “worth it” any more.
We’re here to tell you it is and that’s a key point we wanted to emphasize with the new truck wrap designs. Let’s take a moment to dig in to that detail:
The recycling import ban that came from China in 2018 has complex causes and also underscores that recycling is a commodity market that has always experienced ups and downs.
But there is good news amid the shake-up. In particular, it’s forcing U.S. recycling processors and consumers to get back to basics: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle . . . Properly.
Glass is one of the best materials to recycle. Not only does glass recycling help stimulate the local economy, glass can be recycled endlessly. Indeed, 80% of recovered glass is recycled into new glass bottles. The rest is turned into industrial materials. Momentum Recycling, Utah’s glass-only recycling facility, provides a critical service to our communities by taking care of our glass and moving Utah closer to zero waste.
Did you know that Earth Day was celebrated by over a BILLION people last year?
That is an incredible number, right?
It’s been celebrated since 1970 and has since become the world’s largest day for environmental awareness and the world’s largest service project. It is often marked by planting trees, doing litter cleanups, or engaging in other volunteer projects.
In honor of Earth Day 2019, we’ve compiled a list of things you can do personally to reduce your impact on the planet, as well as some fun upcoming events to help you choose how you want to celebrate Earth Day!