JACKSON HOLE, WYO \u2013 Teton County\u2019s Road to Zero Waste is going to be an uphill climb. Still, it\u2019s no time to get discouraged about recycling.\r\n\r\nThat\u2019s the message from the folks at Teton County Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling (ISWR). They are doubling down on their plea to the public: Please, do your part.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nFirst off, the elephant in the room. Teton County generates an enormous amount of trash. A booming economy, the nature of a tourist town\u2014blame what you will but the Road to Zero Waste campaign is not going to be an easy one. July 2019 was a record-setter for garbage\u20143,760 tons worth to be exact. Never has the trash transfer station experienced volume like that for a one-month period.\r\n\r\nBut without recycling and various reduce\/reuse efforts (which are difficult to track), July\u2019s numbers could have been even more eye-popping. Carrie Bell, Waste Diversion and Outreach Coordinator with ISWR, says the county\u2019s diversion rate stands at about 30%, meaning nearly a third of the total waste produced in Teton County never gets to the landfill.\r\n\r\nThat\u2019s pretty good\u2026considering.\r\n\r\nRecycling is not easy. Several factors make it a challenge anywhere in the world. But in Teton County, despite what you might read in the headlines today, recycling still works.\r\n\r\nPerhaps you\u2019ve heard that recycling today is a failed endeavor. Recycling plastics, for instance, has been touted as more energy-expensive than it\u2019s worth. The market for other recyclables is also experiencing a significant crash. There are simply too few buyers and they have become very choosey about what they will accept.\r\n\r\n\u201cDon\u2019t believe any rumors about the Recycling Center landfilling recyclables because it simply isn\u2019t true. Don\u2019t let the national news discourage you from recycling in Teton County because our system is a system that works,\u201d Bell says. \u201cEven though prices for commodities are at an all-time low, we are still able to sell all of our recyclables. In fact, other communities are looking to our program as an example of something that works in a difficult market.\u201d\r\n\r\nThat\u2019s where you come in.\r\n\r\nA lot of the success has to do with what happens before that Coke can or Amazon packaging ever hits the recycling facility. ISWR maintains strong working relationships with vendors because they trust our stuff is clean. That takes hours and hours of painstaking sorting that begins at ground zero at the recycling bins around the valley.\r\n\r\n\u201cEasy recycling doesn\u2019t work. Recycling is hard,\u201d Bell says. \u201cBut our community does an amazing job of keeping the contamination level very low.\u201d\r\n\r\nA major reason why ISWR\u2019s recycling program is succeeding where others are not is a dedication to source separating\u2014each item is sorted into its own bin. Every piece of material brought to the Recycling Center that is clean and dry is sorted by hand and prepared for recycling.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nCareless practices in discarding our recyclables slow the process. It can also put real people at real risk.\r\n\r\n\u201cRecently the recycling crew has found items like used syringes, soiled toilet paper, and dog poo bags in our recycling,\u201d Bell says. \u201cNot only does this pose a threat to the health and safety of the recycling crew, it also has the potential to contaminate an otherwise clean load of recyclables, rendering them as trash.\u201d\r\n\r\nThis means that plastic wrap or Styrofoam packaging you left inside a cardboard box has to be picked out by hand at the sorting facility. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, workers do nothing but sort through corrugated carboard material to make sure that is all that is baled up for delivery. If even one scrap of plastic gets past sorters and is noticed by a recyclable buyer, the entire bale is thrown away as trash.\r\n\r\nBell says she is especially concerned with material that could be a danger to staff. Safe disposal of medical waste such as syringes and medicines is extremely important. Public Health sells containers for syringes and has a medicine donation program. Town Hall also has a medicine dropbox.\r\n\r\nAs a reminder that real people do real hands-on work at the facility, Bell says ISWR will soon be adding visual wraps to the back of recycling trailers that feature the men and women who sort through our cans, bottles, and cardboard to make sure it is as clean as can be.\r\n\r\nIt is the only way recycling works and, in Teton County, it is working.