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County recycling change nets savings

Norine Frey, who owns property on Bond Lake in Wascott, deposits recyclables in one of the new 8-yard recycling containers at the Gordon-Wascott Transfer Station in Gordon Jan. 23. The new boxes have replaced larger containers at 10 county transfer stations, a move that is expected to save the county $44,000 in 2018. Maria Lockwood

Douglas County rolled out new recycling containers at its 10 transfer stations this year. The move to smaller front-end load boxes is expected to save the county more than $44,000 in 2018.

"Every taxpayer in Douglas County benefits from it," said Gordon Town Supervisor Pam Boettcher.

It's been a process of adjustment at the Gordon-Wascott transfer station. In past years, two 20-yard drop boxes were housed inside the building. Residents could drop off their trash and recyclables out of the elements. Now they must drive outside to a row of 8-yard containers to drop off recyclables because the building doesn't have enough overhead clearance for trucks to dump the new containers.

Public response has been "up and down," said transfer station attendant George Booth.

Older residents, in particular, have a harder time accessing the outdoor containers in slippery winter conditions. It also involves more snow shoveling for Booth.

"I think it'll work fine," said Norine Frey, who has property on Bond Lake in Wascott, when she dropped off her mixed recyclables last week. "It's an adjustment."

Boettcher said the more recycling residents do, the better it is for the municipal pocketbook. Douglas County pays for recycling; municipalities get the bill for garbage collection.

"Garbage is a very expensive commodity," Boettcher said. "Any recycling that goes in with garbage is billed."

Municipalities are charged by the ton so the heavier the item is, the more it costs.

Boettcher stressed that anyone who chooses not to recycle is breaking the law. Recycling has been mandatory in Douglas County since 1995, according to county ordinances.

The Department of Natural Resources requires an annual recycling report from counties.

"In 2016, rural Douglas County residents recycled nearly 119 pounds per person," said Jennifer Barton, environmental specialist with Northwest Regional Planning Commission. "That's more than the per capita collection standard of 82 pounds per person."

There's more residents can do, especially with the move to smaller containers.

Although they are dumped once a week, the Gordon-Wascott recycling boxes overflowed once during the holidays. Boettcher said they have considered adding more containers in the summer.

If residents compress their recyclables by breaking down cardboard and flattening jugs and cans, the same items take up one-third of the space.

Barton, the recycling coordinator for Douglas County, demonstrated the difference at a recent Northwest Regional Planning Commission training session using two boxes of identical items.

"Five minutes and I've got a whole different perspective on why this other portion of recycling is important," Boettcher said.

Barton said she aims to produce a short video on compressing recycling for release in February.

For more information on the Douglas County recycling program, visit douglascountywi.org and choose "Recycling" under the "Departments" menu.

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