The road to zero waste is not a straight one. In Teton County, Wyoming, it involves creativity, community dedication and an innovative mix of ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.
County staff presented the Teton County Board of County Commissioners with a slew of strategies on Feb. 13 that will enable the community to move forward on the “Road to Zero Waste” (R2ZW). The Teton County Zero Waste Resolution was adopted in 2014, establishing the goal of 60 percent diversion, or an additional 12,000 tons of waste diverted from landfill per year, by 2030.
R2ZW strategies are derived from reports by industry experts, analyses of existing programs and operations and comparison with other zero waste communities throughout the Rocky Mountain West region. The result is a comprehensive list of options that could be implemented over a 15-year period in cooperation with local government, businesses, residents and organizations.
“Within five years, the community can look forward to the implementation of commercial food waste composting, collection and disposal fees that reward diversion and expanded recognition of zero waste events and initiatives,” said Heather Overholser, superintendent of Solid Waste and Recycling. “Some exciting first steps planned for this summer include a food waste collection pilot project with Grand Teton National Park and improvements to composting infrastructure at the trash transfer station.”
Beyond the short term, the Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling department expects to install a sorting system to accommodate a more commingled stream of recyclables.
“At this point, we expect that the program will likely be dual stream, potentially with containers grouped together in one bin and paper grouped in another,” Overholser said. “Requiring less separation of recyclables will pave the way for increased curbside collection and variable rate trash disposal, also known as pay-as-you-throw.”
Commissioners responded with support as well as some questions. “What can we do about plastics?” Commissioner Greg Epstein asked. “They appear to be low hanging fruit.” The answer to plastics, according to the proposed strategies, is to use less. ISWR targets the reduction of plastic water bottle use through its JH20 project water bottle refilling stations. Also on the list is an effort to promote reusable shopping bags over single use plastic bags.
The workshop was intended to showcase strategic options for increased waste diversion. Approval of individual R2ZW measures for implementation will occur through the annual budgeting process.
“Thank you for the presentations,” Chairman Mark Newcomb said. “You and your staff have put a lot of excellent work into the program.”
For more information about the “Road to Zero Waste” in Teton County, including zero waste tips for households and businesses, visit tetonwyo.org/recycle/.