Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life

By , on July 26, 2010


Recycling for those who use the main transfer station in Thurston County, WA has become a nightmare through recent price structuring and a general lack of improvements. The hardest thing to swallow is that the minimum weights are so high that those with a pick-up truck of household trash will pay the same amount for disposal irrespective of participation in recycling. It was not long ago that you would pull into the recycling center, unload numerous recycling items, then drive over the scales and get a ticket before unloading the rest of your trash. You paid only for the weight of the non-recyclables, which gave a modest financial incentive to recycle.

The other big problem is the obvious lack of improvements for the person using the recycling area. The bins are either side load, which increases the difficulty of loading the container, or top load for papers, requiring folks to lift heavy items. Some of the container labeling is incorrect or ambiguous; I have been corrected for placing 1 gallon milk jugs in the container signed “Milk Jugs Only.” The containers are on two sides of an asphalt area, forcing users to cross in front of drivers arriving and departing. There is no striping for traffic lanes and parking, making the area feel worse than pit row at Indy. And the trucks that take and deliver the containers actually enter at the public exit, backing to the containers with alarms sounding. The sound of trucks and dumping is loud enough to justify hearing protection, but doing so places you at risk of being run down by a car or truck. The area is dangerous and will result in injury or death to someone sooner or later.

We have spent hours loading our truck to sort recyclables correctly, then more time at the transfer station sorting again to get the  stuff into the correct bin. We have spent money on energy and water to rinse bottles and cans. The time, energy, and risk without any financial incentive is too great to encourage citizen participation in recycling. The county needs to fix this mess.

December 25, 2010 Update

The container labeling has been corrected and improved. Bravo!

July 18, 2011 Update

There is a new and completely re-designed recycling area. It resolves most of the problems noted above. The pricing structure could better reward recycling, though.

2 Comments to “Recycling in Thurston County, WA”

  1. Anneke says:

    Have you written the county?

  2. admin says:

    Yes, by e-mail. Separately, I spoke with an administrator by telephone. The first communication concerned the difficulty of loading recyclables into the small vertical container openings. The container openings were sloped at approximately a 30 degree angle, making loading easier years ago. The communication did no good. The next and more recent contact concerned the then “new” fee structure that removed the monetary incentive from recycling. They defended their actions with vigor, and suggested I solve the problem by contracting with LeMay for regular pick-up and noted that those of us who went to the tipping station as individuals cost them a lot of money and the fee structure was designed to encourage contracted pick-up. Contracted pick-up, of course, is a hassle here as well. Curbside pickup is impossible, because we have no curbs, let alone curbsides! Also, our trash would need to be hauled 0.7 miles to the public road by truck each week. This method of disposal is expensive and wasteful of time and fuel; it would be 2.8 miles per week – two round trips, roughly equivalent to the drive to the tipping station but the numerous small trips would be with a cold engine using the F-150, not my hot Honda! Those who use the curbside service here do not recycle because they end up carrying too many containers up and down the road. I think recycling in on the decline in rural Thurston county due to the policies of the county.

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