Recycling Risk: How Boise's Trash Gamble Paid Off 

Two years later, Boise's Curb It program is a model in the Treasure Valley

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The stations will sell CNG at roughly cost to the public, which will be less than $1.50 per gallon equivalent, depending on the final costs of the infrastructure, Klein said. Already, Klein said more people have been either buying CNG cars or bringing them in from areas with established programs. Additionally, Valley Ride has ordered new CNG buses for Canyon County.

The greatest lingering issue facing city officials is what to do with glass.

BW broke the story in October 2010 that a literal mountain of glass had been building up south of town from glass residents had dropped off in recycling bins across the community (BW, News, "The Glass Ceiling," Oct. 20, 2010). Roughly 60,000 cubic yards of glass had built up, with no end in sight and no purpose in mind. The Ada County Highway District, which owns the land under the mountain, put an end to the arrangement late last year and the city scrambled for a solution.

The city was able to buy a used glass-crusher from Mountain Home Air Force Base, paying just $250 for the piece of equipment valued at roughly $20,000.

Tests have been ongoing, and Boise-based Environmental Abrasives, a subsidiary of Nelson Construction, is working with the city to use the discarded glass by grinding it into a super-fine powder that can be used for industrial cleaning and sandblasting.

Chertudi said the company has assured city officials that it cannot only use all incoming glass but will be able to work down the massive pile of existing glass.

The city is also working with a start-up company, Idaho Glass Recycling, that plans to salvage wine bottles by running them through an industrial washing process and selling them back to wineries to reuse.

But the most anticipated piece of the glass puzzle is curbside recycling, something that has been long requested in the community. City officials have been analyzing the issue for years but only recently have come up with a plan to start offering the service as early as this fall. The pressure is on to iron out the details since Boise Mayor Dave Bieter announced the plan at his State of the City address in mid-May.

Chertudi said details will be finalized this summer, and residents will have their first chance to sign up for the program after June 15.

Officials are careful to stress that curbside glass recycling will be a voluntary program, for which participants will pay roughly $10 per month for the dedicated truck and driver required to pick up glass across the city. Glass recycling will be a self-supporting program, and it will be reevaluated every year to ensure that it is in fact paying for itself.

City officials are aware that the price tag may limit the amount of participation.

Two surveys conducted by the city showed that roughly 30 percent of customers would be willing to pay for some form of curbside glass recycling, but that number drops as the price of the service increases. Because of that, the city is designing its program around the assumption that only 3 percent to 5 percent of customers will participate. If more residents sign up for glass recycling, Chertudi said the city would be able to expand the program.

She added that the city hopes to work closely with area bars and restaurants--which tend to use the most glass waste--to collect glass directly at the source.

For those who choose not to participate in the glass recycling program, the city will maintain public glass drop-off sites, although the number of those locations may be cut down. In addition to boosting recycling numbers, Woods said by keeping more glass out of the trash, the weight of material headed to the landfill will be reduced.

"It's absolutely been worth it," Woods said of the push to start the glass recycling program.

Chertudi--whose knowledge of the Curb It program is nearly encyclopedic--gets philosophical when asked about the future of recycling in the Treasure Valley.

"The long-term goal is to create a community that is not wasteful and values all our resources," she said. "We have to create that value, that ethic. What can we do to help people reduce waste and make good choices?

"We still have a lot of challenges," she said.

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