Utahns Among Nation's Worst Recyclers

Utahns Among Nation's Worst Recyclers

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John Hollenhorst ReportingUtah residents throw away enough trash every year to fill up the Delta Center 18 times! Much of it could be recycled, that was the message at a conference today where it became clear that Utah has one of the poorest recycling rates in the nation.

Recycling, like Motherhood and Apple Pie, who could possibly be against it? It's the little thing every person can do to help save the planet. So what do Utahns do with their trash? More than most states, we just dump it in a landfill.

At a meeting of the Utah Recycling Coalition, Peter Grogan of the Weyerhaeuser Company said Utah recycling rates are low.

Peter Grogan, Weyerhaeuser Company: “Extremely low compared to the national average. So many local governments, many citizens have chosen the easy path. The easy path is to dispose of the material.”

Utah has been steadily building up curbside recycling programs.

Brad Mertz, Executive Director, Recycling Coalition of Utah: "Eight years ago we had about three programs. We now have over 20. And the numbers keep growing. We hope to see them keep growing."

Statistics are somewhat inexact, but recent national estimates put Utah somewhere near the bottom -- about fifth worst in the nation. Nationally, about 30 percent of trash is recycled, 50 percent of all paper. In Utah only 5 or 10 percent gets recycled. Other western states are low too. Land is plentiful and space in landfills is relatively cheap.

Brad Mertz, Executive Director, Recycling Coalition of Utah: "We're one of the cheapest areas in the United States to dispose of waste, so we have that working against us a little bit."

Peter Grogan: “And you see a direct correlation throughout the entire country – cost of landfill and the amount of recycling.”

Proponents of recycling often turn to another argument they hope will be more persuasive than economics.

Peter Grogan: “It’s just the right thing to do.”

Grogan says in some places peer pressure has been the single-most important force in getting people to recycle. The state with the highest recycling rate is New Jersey, which has high disposal costs because it ships all waste out-of-state.

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