My Turn: Truckee’s blue bag program fraud
EDITOR’S NOTE: According to the town of Truckee’s website, when recyclables are placed in blue bags and the bag survives the collection process, nearly 100 percent of those recyclables are recovered for recycling. Meanwhile, only 17-18 percent of recyclables that are tossed in with the trash are captured for recycling.
Thank you Nick De Flori for you right-on column (“Leash laws and plastic bags,” 12/25/13 Sierra Sun Opinion page) about the town of Truckee and its single-use plastic bag ban. I have five uses for that bag, and none of them threaten wildlife; they actually help.
That said, I am an ardent recycler, I have three garbage cans in my garage to separate household trash and a composter in my yard. The purpose of this letter is to take it one step further in the town’s recycling hypocrisy, the Blue Bag Program.
Let’s follow the path a blue bag takes: You buy it from a local business (where does the money go?), you spend a week separating your household trash — feeling like you’re doing something for the environment — you put it out on trash day, and workers come by and throw it into the bin on their worker trucks.
They’re then taken to the larger trucks (trash compacters on wheels) and most of the blue bags are crushed. The large trucks then go to the main building at the landfill, where a large loader crushes all the trash, including any remaining intact blue bags, co-mingling all trash.
Then all trash goes up a conveyor belt, where workers try to remove the recycle material that you spent all week separating. Near the end of the conveyor belt, workers try to remove the blue bags, and toss them into a large container.
I estimate that even with the workers trying to give 100 percent attention to what goes by them (is that possible?), about 30 to 40 percent of recycling material goes to the landfill, and about 15 percent of the blue bags also end up there.
I talked to some of the town’s recycle folks at Truckee Thursday two summers ago, and they admitted total frustration at this situation. I also talked to a town council member who expressed surprise, but that was it.
The landfill keeps getting rate raises from the town, claiming rising costs. They and the town are very active in promoting the blue bag program, but it’s nothing more than a bait and switch scam.
Go to the recycle center at the landfill, watch the large trucks unload their haul, then watch the loader crush and push the material to the conveyor belt. Go to the west side of the building to see the workers try to separate the material and then go to the south end and see what ends up going to Nevada’s landfills.
There is actually one good thing about the blue bag program. Buy a bundle of blue bags — you don’t have to be as thorough as you think you should be, and when you put them out on trash day, you don’t get hit with a second bag charge.
Like the “single-use” bag ban, this just another feel-good program that costs the people of Truckee money, with basically a zero return, and provides a false sense that you are doing something for the environment. The workers were separating material before the blue bag program — they would still be there without it.
Bryan DeVoe is a Truckee resident.
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