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South Salt Lake • Salt Lake County residents need to do a better job of recycling, for the economy as well as the environment, says Mayor Ben McAdams.
McAdams challenged valley residents Wednesday to double the volume of materials they recycle in the next two years, a jump that would bring local recycling rates up to the national average.
"Reaching this goal will be a win for our economy, a win for our wallets and a win for the environment," McAdams said.
He cited several statistics to emphasize the importance of recycling for the environment:
• Every ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees.
• Recycling aluminum uses 95 percent less energy than creating it and recycling plastic uses 70 percent less.
McAdams also pointed to economic benefits:
• Recycling, he said, creates four times as many jobs as waste management.
Rocky Mountain Recycling, a South Salt Lake company, served as a backdrop for the announcement.
Company manager Larry Gibbons said recycling provides jobs for a couple of hundred of workers at Rocky Mountain plants in South Salt Lake, Denver and Las Vegas.
Started 13 years ago, his business invested $8 million in a 2009 expansion and now takes in 50-70 truckloads of recyclable materials daily, weighing several hundred tons. After the news conference, garbage trucks bearing the logos of Salt Lake City, Draper and Elko, Nev., pulled into the lot and disgorged their loads.
While Salt Lake County residents are good about putting out their blue recycling cans for curb pickups, McAdams said too much recyclable material is still going into black garbage cans destined for the landfill.
Only 16 percent of the waste collected across much of the Salt Lake Valley is recycled compared to 36 percent nationally, he said.
The campaign's goal is to "inspire residents to get involved in the process" and to start recycling, said Ashlee Yoder, the Salt Lake Valley Landfill's recycling coordinator. "They're the most important link in the chain."
She would particularly like to see more recycling of plastic water bottles, noting "they're very easily recyclable but very rarely are."
Pam Roberts, executive director of the Wasatsch Front Waste and Recyling District, said county residents have embraced recycling since it started as a subscription service in 2003.
About 4,000 tons of recyclables were collected then, when people who wanted the service paid a fee for every-other-week curbside pickups. The subscription option was dropped, pickups are now weekly and the volume of recycled materials is approaching 22,000 tons this year, Roberts noted.