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Taking in the trash
Recycling options in Baker City
By Mark Bogart
For the Baker City Herald
Where can you recycle metal in Baker City? How about paint? Motor oil? Ink cartridges?
While the city’s one recycling center, operated by Baker Sanitary Service (BSS) at 3048 Campbell St., accepts a variety of items, some materials have more restrictions on how and when they are accepted. Others, including paint, ink cartridges, and cell phones, are not processed through Baker Sanitary, but may be taken to other businesses in the area.
BSS President David Henry said his company’s disposal and recycling efforts are affected by government regulations and financial considerations. Baker County collects about 375 tons of solid waste in a normal week, and also receives about 500 tons from Union County, which closed its landfill several years ago.
While his goal is to reduce the amount of trash going into the landfill, Henry believes that the responsibility needs to be shared by producers and consumers, not just left up to companies like Baker Sanitary.
For example, Baker Sanitary is not required to provide curbside collection of recyclables because the area is meeting, or nearly meeting, goals for the recovery rate (percentage of material recycled out of the total solid waste produced).
Those goals are set by a 2009 state law and overseen by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
The city has been exempted, so far, from a state law that requires cities with populations of more than 4,000 to offer curbside recycling at least monthly.
In 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, Baker County recycled about 24.4 percent of its total solid waste, which amounted to 15.37 tons. The county’s goal by law is 25 percent. Its actual recycling rate has ranged from 19 percent to 28 percent over the past dozen years.
(Statistics for 2012 should be available later this fall from DEQ.)
Baker Sanitary could offer curbside collection, but that would require the company to boost rates for customers from the current $16 per month for residential customers.
So far, there hasn’t been a widespread demand for adding curbside recycling given the higher cost, Henry said.
Baker Sanitary does take metal, such as appliances, for recycling at the landfill on Old Highway 30 about five miles southeast of town.
Smaller metal items can be taken to the recycling center, but they need to be delivered during business hours (weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) so they can be stored inside the fence. Metals are accepted at no charge, but there is also no payment to you.
If you want to get paid for car parts or other metal, you should contact Baker City Auto Salvage and Recycling at 3210 H St. or Ladd’s Auto at 8 David Eccles Road.
Options for other recyclables:
• Motor oil and batteries of all kinds and can also be recycled at Baker Sanitary Service during business hours. Rechargeable batteries need to be separated from non-rechargeable ones.
• Your leftover paint will be accepted at Thatcher’s Ace Hardware or Miller’s Lumber, but not at the recycling center.
• Step Forward Activities at 3720 10th St. wants your used ink and toner cartridges. The nonprofit organization provides vocational training, employment and residential opportunities for people with disabilities. Cartridge recycling provides work experiences as well as funds for the program.
• Due to a state law, Baker Sanitary will recycle “e-waste,” but the program is limited to computers, monitors and televisions. There is no place in the area to recycle printers, radios, stereo components or most other electronics, so they have to go to the landfill.
• MayDay Inc. collects used cellphones to provide communication for victims of domestic or sexual violence. Go Wireless, the Verizon outlet, will also take used cellphones of all types for recycling.
U.S. Cellular will take back phones if originally sold by that company, and in good condition, to lend to customers.
• Household hazardous waste (HHW), such as pesticides, cleaning supplies and other chemicals, needs to be disposed of in a safe manner and not put in the landfill, Henry said.
In most cases recycling is not an option, but the substances are collected at the recycling center once a month during business hours then transported to a disposal center in La Grande.
The first Wednesday of each month is designated for collection of these items, and residents are asked to call Baker Sanitary at 541-523-2626 for an appointment, so materials can be identified and handled appropriately. People should also call BSS about unknown or unlabeled substances.
The center collects hazardous waste from households free of charge, but businesses must follow different regulations for disposing of their waste, Henry said.
Batteries and fluorescent light tubes fit into a different category, called “universal waste.”
These can be taken to BSS on any day during business hours. People delivering these items should contact BSS for proper handling and storage.
The least restrictive recycling materials go into the large white bins at BSS. The bins are outside the fence so they are accessible all day, every day of the year. While the bins are all labeled for the appropriate contents, there are still some areas of confusion or misuse.
Henry clarified that the “mixed plastic” bin can be used for plastic food containers (such as yogurt and margarine).
The company has some difficulty with people depositing items without removing them from plastic bags or sorting out other materials. This results in more expense or lower payments from the recycling companies that receive the materials because it requires more sorting.
Volume is an important factor for Baker Sanitary, Henry said. When more people recycle, it allows the company to invest in more services, he said.
More information on solid waste disposal and recycling in Baker County is available by calling Baker Sanitary Service at 541-523-2626 or viewing their website at www.bakersanitary.com.