These sanitation staff play an essential role in any city. Waste management supports public health, and these services are critical to protecting the environment. Salt Lake City’s Waste & Recycling Division works diligently to provide these services – even during times of crisis – but their efforts are not always recognized. That’s why we’re inviting you to join us in thanking these employees by taking part in Waste & Recycling Workers Week!
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.
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!
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.
Salt Lake City is excited to announce that a new Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) is coming to our city in 2020. It will process Salt Lake City’s residential recycling, along with other customers’ material from around the area.
Waste Management is currently the City’s contracted recycling vendor and processes roughly 750 tons per month of Salt Lake City recyclables at their facility in southern Salt Lake County.
This new, upgraded facility will allow the company to produce a cleaner end-product with higher value, increase diversion from the landfill, and support Salt Lake City’s overall recycling goals.
We’re also thrilled that the facility will be located in Salt Lake City limits, with the attendant economic development impacts, as well as the shorter travel times for our trucks.
See the below press release from Waste Management for more information.
Waste Management Announces
Plans to Expand Recycling Operations in Salt Lake City to Better Serve the
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — March 6, 2019 — Waste Management of Utah has announced plans to expand and improve its Salt Lake City recycling operations with the construction of a new, larger and technically-advanced Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Building is expected to begin in the spring and the new MRF is slated to be fully operational by early 2020.
Ever wonder how Salt Lake City successfully diverts over 32,000 tons of material annually from the landfill?
It’s a big undertaking– involving operations, education, outreach, and policy. And our amazing staff are at the heart of it!
Today we’re thrilled to announce that one of our own, Mitch Davis, is being recognized nationally for his efforts by Waste360, a recycling trade group serving 90,000 professionals.
The Waste360 “40 Under 40” awards program “recognizes inspiring and innovative professionals under the age of 40 whose work in waste, recycling and organics have made a significant contribution to the industry.“
“This award is a great honor in the waste & recycling industry,” said Lance Allen, Waste & Recycling Division Director. “We are very proud of Mitch and what he brings to our team and community.”
Mitch Davis accepts his Waste360 40 Under 40 award. 2017.
A shoe in the recycling bin? Nope!
Mitch started his career with Salt Lake City as an intern in 2008 while finishing up his degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Utah. His passion for waste diversion and public service has been the driving force behind the success of many of our waste diversion strategies ever since.
When Mitch started with Salt Lake City he wanted to, “make a difference.” Because of his hard work and dedication, he most certainly has achieved that goal! Here’s how: Read more