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County scales back school recycling sites

A decades-old recycling program serving more than 40 public schools in northern Idaho will be significantly scaled back next year in a move that is expected to save Kootenai County about $170,000 a year.

Teachers and students who recycle can now find collection bins for newspapers, cans and magazines at 42 schools within the county. But receptacles at all but five of those locations will not be available after June 1.

The Kootenai County Board of Commissioners decided last week not to renew contracts to pick up the recycling with three districts, which means many bins outside Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Rathdrum schools will be removed.

School collections at the schools have declined as cities make recycling from home easier, offering curbside service and allowing residents to dump multiple items into one bin without having to sort the materials, according to the head of the Kootenai County Solid Waste Department.

“We didn’t see changes in the first nine months, but now we’re starting to see changes,” said Department director Roger Saterfiel told the Coeur d’Alene Press. “It’s dropping more and more as time goes on.”

Coeur d’Alene was the first in the area to introduce streamlined recycling last year and participation rates shot up from around 27 percent to 63 percent. Other cities have since followed with similar programs, including Post Falls.

As collections at the school sites went down, the decision to end program wasn’t difficult, said Kootenai County Commissioner Dan Green.

“I think it made it easier,” Green said. “Recycling has been a tremendous success.”

Hayden Meadows, Dalton Elementary, Hayden Kindergarten and other schools will continue to be drop locations for recycling materials because of the high amount of materials they collect. Collection sites at Kootenai school in Harrison and Canyon Elementary School near Rose Lake will also stay intact because of their rural locations.

The Kootenai County recycling program has been in place since the early 1990s and is used as an educational tool to teach students about the benefits of recycling and saving landfill space. The program, which saved the county $27,000 worth of landfill space last year, no longer made economic sense, Saterfiel said.

The Coeur d’Alene School District understood the county’s decision from a fiscal perspective, said spokeswoman Laura Rumpler. The district will now work to inform parents and students of the upcoming change.

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