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Curbside recycling coming to curbside near you

Madras Sanitary Service will have new program online this spring

   News Editor
   Recycling will soon be coming to a curbside near you.
   Madras Sanitary Service is preparing to have a curbside recycling program online this spring -- bringing the city up to speed with a trend that swept through much of the state years ago.
   "A lot of citizens have wanted it," said Janelle Orcutt, a co-owner of Madras Sanitary Service along with her husband, daughter and son-in-law. "It's a quality of life issue. And people from other cities who move here say they want it."
   In their infancy, curbside programs required customers to sort their recyclables into separate containers.
   In recent years, however, what is known as "commingled recycling" has become the most common method. Madras residents won't need to sort their recyclables; they can conveniently place them all in one recycle bin, which will be provided to area residents as the program nears its start date.
   Materials eligible for Madras' commingled curbside program will include the following: newspapers, cardboard, magazines, catalogs, white paper and milk jugs.
   While the program should be encouraging to conservationists and other environmentally conscious citizens, it still falls short of what programs in other cities can offer.
   Some programs, specifically those in the Willamette Valley, include tin, aluminum, plastic, paper board and colored paper in their commingled curbside programs.
   "One problem we have here that they don't have on the other side of the mountain is that the markets are there," Orcutt said. "We have to ship the materials."
   But at least it's a start.
   Madras Sanitary Service will send the recyclables to Far West Fibers of Beaverton, where materials are sorted by machines and by hand on a conveyer belt. Far West Fibers pays a relatively small amount for the materials, which will cover the shipping costs.
   Companies like Far West Fibers are eager to get their hands on recycled paper to resell it, but other materials are less desirable. If Madras were to include recyclables like tin and plastic, shipping costs would mount and the whole process would no longer be economically feasible.
   Oregon law requires cities with populations above 4,000 to provide a curbside recycling program to their residents or develop a Department of Environmental Quality-approved alternative.
   By 1994, Madras had eclipsed the 4,000 mark but provided recycling depots at its garbage service office off Cherry Lane instead of a curbside program, which wouldn't have been economical at the time.
   Indeed, economics have always been a roadblock to comprehensive recycling programs.
   When the depots were created, garbage rates increased 86 cents per customer.
   Madras Sanitary Service officials are approaching their new program cautiously. Orcutt said curbside pickup may take place only once or twice a month in the beginning. "We'll do the program for a few months," Orcutt said, "then when we go into our rate review we can make adjustments in the rates to reflect the actual cost."
   The recycling depots will remain at Madras Sanitary Service's office even when the curbside program begins. They will still be a place where residents can recycle scrap metal, motor oil and glass -- materials not covered in the commingled curbside program.
   Each county in Oregon has a minimum requirement for recovery, or what percent of its waste needs to be recycled. The state mandates that Jefferson County recycle 7 percent of its materials. In 2000, Jefferson County recycled 27 percent of its refuse thanks in large part to the depots established in 1994.
   Larger counties are held to a higher standard, some as much as 50 percent. But again, the economics of those situations make the goals more practical.
   "In a larger population, it isn't felt so bad because there's more people to spread the rates around," Orcutt said.
   Madras Sanitary Service decided to move toward curbside recycling in conjunction with the arrival of its new vehicles. Employees will soon be driving front-load packers, or automated trucks, which lift garbage and recyclables into the vehicle with a mechanical arm. Drivers won't even have to get out of their trucks.
   While Madras is slightly behind in implementing a curbside recycling program, its method will be above the norm. Area residents won't be using the traditional rectangular red bins but will instead use a tall, cylinder-like gray container similar to garbage bins that is easy for collectors to lift with a mechanical arm.
   "This is new ground for Madras Sanitary Service," Orcutt said. "With the help of our customers we'll figure it out."
   And despite any initial shortcomings, more materials could eventually be added to the commingled program, which has drastically increased recovery rates in counties that practice them.
   And that's good news to at least one important city official.
   "I think this is something people are going to be pretty happy with," said Mayor Rick Allen. "For recycling to work better it's got to be more convenient."