Thursday, January 23, 2014

Final Drive- Permanent Plastics Soon to be Realized!

Immediate Release: S.A.V.E. to host a final plastics drive March 14th to 17th; S.A.V.E.
pleased to see community partnership yield to permanent program at City of Helena
Transfer Station
Thad Adkins, Board of Directors
The S.A.V.E. Foundation
Tyler Evilsizer, Chair
The S.A.V.E. Foundation

Helena, Mont. The Student Advocates for Valuing the Environment Foundation (S.A.V.E.) has coordinated a community partnership for recycling plastics in Helena for the past 8 years, providing free collection for plastics during a four day period starting on the second Friday of odd numbered months.

“The community support has been amazing,” notes S.A.V.E. Board member Thad Adkins, “but the event is simply too large to be safe with winter weather, wind, and even rain and lightning in the summer.” Thousands of area residents utilize S.A.V.E.’s Plastics Drives and find themselves out in the cold when dutifully recycling or at a loss when they can’t make a plastics drive. This month’s drive was able to avoid icy conditions thanks to plowing and sanding by General Services of the State of Montana, but extreme winds persisted throughout the entire drive. Transitioning to a drop-off program would no longer require large numbers of people and vehicles to congregate over a long weekend, especially during adverse weather events.

S.A.V.E. is committed to ensuring a smooth transition to a permanent program. Following yesterday’s City of Helena Commission administrative meeting, that goal is now in sight. The City Commission endorsed a staff proposal to incorporate plastics recycling within a two to three month timeline that will include leasing or acquiring compactor units to collect three versions of plastics. This step will provide residents with a service similar to current plastics drives, but on a daily basis during operational hours at the City of Helena Transfer Station. Thad Adkins committed S.A.V.E.’s support to help educate the public on the new program. As a transition measure, S.A.V.E. will host a final drive March 14th to 17th at the parking lot of 1100 N Last Chance Gulch. S.A.V.E. will also distribute materials about the transition to a city operated program during that event.

After a staff presentation and through commission and public discussion, the City Commission gave a green light on the proposal including exploring cost-saving measures by starting with a provisional program. City staff will look at alternative power sources
including the possibility of leasing a generator, the use of used equipment, compactors
retired from waste service that can still work for recycling, and alternative locations within the transfer station for the program.

 Several attendees at the meeting raised concerns about taking action ahead of a joint study by the City of Helena and Lewis & Clark Scratch Gravel Waste District to be conducted this spring and summer. However, Tri-County Sanitation offered continued support noting they could look into making available equipment and hauling services they currently provide for S.A.V.E. drives. Such support would allow the City to hold off on making capital investments for plastics recycling before the study findings are known. Thad Adkins noted that an interim program would generate valuable data for use in the comprehensive program study.

Mayor Smith and Commissioner Ellison voiced support in moving forward with the
program. Mayor Smith, noting that while S.A.V.E. is continuing the bi-monthly drive, would have had their final drive in November “if they had their druthers” and his role as Mayor is to move things forward. He also noted that many City programs, be they public
transportation, the Civic Center, or other public services do not break even. Commissioner Ellison agreed with the Mayor but mentioned he was pleased to see that the staff proposal showed substantial revenues that may approach breaking even, and that many associated costs of plastics recycling could be recovered over time. Commissioner Ellison stated that, “recycling plastic has strong community support, and high public expectations, and the alternatives outlined by staff need only a little more work to get a program underway.”

In his support, Commissioner Elsaesser’s memo noted that the market value of the three
plastic stream collection would rise substantially if clear Type-1 trays (clam shell trays that have fruit) were collected with Type 2 colored plastics (detergent bottles). The resulting collection of Type 1 clear bottles, Type 2 clear milk jugs, while the #1 Tray and Color #2 mix would also maximize the capacity of the city compactors.

Per the staff assessment of plastics market values on January 14th, it was determined that
compacting the plastics at Pacific Steel & Recycling in Helena would likely be the best
option, either selling the plastic to Pacific or paying a processing fee and selling to different venders. Based on current resale values, Type 1 clear, without trays, would yield more per pound. With # 1 clear and # 2 clear making up the majority of plastic currently collected at S.A.V.E. events, a viable program that can recover capital expenses, and offset collection and hauling costs, can be established.

“This is a great day for recycling in Helena,” notes S.A.V.E. Chair Tyler Evilsizer, ”The
longstanding community partnerships have shown Helena’s commitment to recycling and the market for source separated plastics.” The City program takes the lessons learned from the events and overcomes the two main challenges to recycling plastics. Compacting plastics with compactors will overcome the large volume of plastics needed to make market ready bales; a controlled site at the Transfer Station will allow for quality control.

“We want to especially thank our longstanding partners who have made this possible” says Evilsizer, “The City of Helena, Tri-County Sanitation, General Services of the State of Montana, Pacific Steel & Recycling, and the Montana Beverage Association are the primary partners, with Carroll College and A-1 Rentals providing additional support.

S.A.V.E. also looks forward to the comprehensive review of the City and County waste
collection systems. The study, which will look at all operations including the transfer station, residential and commercial collection, and recycling, will focus on integration of the system. As noted in the Helena Independent Record on October 4, 1993 by then City Manager William Verwolf, the public collection setup back then was envisioned to include recycling. “Twenty years later, plastics is a new item ready to join the mix” continues Evilsizer.

“Most of all, S.A.V.E. wants to thank the thousands of community members and the hundreds of volunteers who’ve sustained this program,” concluded Evilsizer. “We have put several hundred thousand pounds of plastics back into the economy with every pound saving the equivalent of a gallon of gas.” More information about the upcoming drive and future of plastics recycling is available at or by calling S.A.V.E. at 449-6008.