Green Summit suggestions for recycling and waste in Reno
Reno residents sound off on plastic bags, recycling and Waste Management
At the Reno Green Summit last week, a break-out session about recycling and plastic bags showed that people are frustrated—with the limitations of Waste Management, with not having recycling at their apartment buildings, with those ubiquitous, petroleum-based plastic bags that remain in the environment for hundreds of years, with trash.
Moderated by the city of Reno’s Jason Geddes and the University of Nevada, Reno’s John Sagebiel, the session was a chance for the roughly 50 people in attendance to air their concerns and suggestions, which Geddes will present to the city council.
Between 250 and 300 people attended the summit overall, where issues of green building, education and transportation were also discussed.
Plastic bags were a hot topic. Several cities have banned them outright, others have charged customers for their use, some have focused on either mandatory or voluntary recycling of them at stores. Reno is looking at all these options.
While many Reno stores offer plastic bag recycling, the bins don’t all look alike and are in different locations at different stores. The idea of having a uniform look and location for the bins appealed to some in the group.
“But I would like more emphasis on canvas bags, and in my mind, organic canvas bags,” said Adesina Stewart, Whole Foods regional green mission specialist.
Another idea was a take-one-leave-one canvas bag program, where shoppers could grab one from a bin and drop them off again later. Some wondered if people would remember to bring the bags back.
On the issue of single-stream recycling, Sagebiel presented Reno’s options: the curbside sorting, which we do now; one bin for trash and one for all recyclables; or one bin for everything, which is sorted out at a “Dirty MRF” (Materials Recovery Facility.) The Dirty MRF appears easiest for residents but requires a specialized facility that captures 100 percent of the recyclables. The closest Dirty MRF is at the Eastern Regional Landfill in Truckee. Madonna Dunbar of the Incline Village General Improvement District said that facility, combined with a blue-bag voluntary recycling program, increased recycling rates there by 300 percent.
“Dirty MRFs sound awesome,” said Reno resident Marie Gilbert. “Why don’t more places do it?” Sagebiel said cost is a factor. Dunbar said rates at the Truckee facility rose from $1.33 to $2.80 per month.
Geddes said the city did a “blue bin” pilot program in the Kings Row area last year, where residents put all recyclables in one bin. Participation went up 40-80 percent, and the volume of recyclables tripled. He said the City Council wants to explore how to go city-wide with the program.
Other suggestions from the community included: Merchant training to avoid confusion at the register when someone brings a reusable bag for purchases; adding plastic bags, cardboard, yard waste and compost to curbside recycling programs; looking into alternatives to Waste Management; getting recycling into apartment complexes and writing into the building code that all new apartment complexes leave space for a recycling bin; and exploring programs and technologies that approach trash as a resource whose value can be retained by through reuse or transformation.