Printed on: January 08, 2013

Curbside pickup

By Zach Kyle
zkyle@postregister.com

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest installment of the Post Register's ongoing Small Business Success Stories series. The series spotlights some of the area's homegrown businesses and companies. To suggest a business to highlight, send an email with a brief description of the company to news@postregister.com.

Big, beige recycling containers started popping up along Idaho Falls and Ammon curbs in August and have multiplied since.

More than 2,000 customers are signed up for the curbside service offered by Idaho Falls-based Western Recycling, manager Craig Stephensen said. More than 100 new customers sign up for the program each week.

Kim Frerichs of Idaho Falls signed in time for the first curbside pickup.

Frerichs said she's waited for a recycling program since she moved to Idaho Falls in 2006 from Seattle, where access to recycling is seen as a birthright.

"I've actually wanted recycling for a long time in Idaho Falls," Frerichs said. "I'm from Seattle and California, so not having the option was always discouraging."

The curbside pickup service costs $5 each month. Customers receive a 95-gallon container to fill with recyclable paper, cardboard, plastic and metal cans that are picked up twice a month.

Items don't need sorting by customers or Western Recycling employees. After trucks pick up the items, they are fed into a bailer, pressed into bricks weighing more than 1,000 pounds and trucked to sorting stations in California and Washington.

Western Recycling modeled the Idaho Falls area program after its Pocatello service, which started with 4,800 customers each paying $5 a month. In 2011, it became a municipal program in which all city residents pay 25 cents a month, Pocatello recycling coordinator Debbie Brady said.

About 11,670 Pocatello residents and businesses use the curbside service, Brady said, including 69 percent of residential units.

While Idaho Falls hasn't expressed interest in partnering with Western Recycling for its own municipal program, Stephensen still expects his operation to grow in the city.

"It'll reach a saturation point," he said. "But this coming year, it really should snowball to where you realize you are the only person on your block who doesn't have curbside recycling. How do you not justify $5 a month?"

The program needs to grow to become profitable, Stephensen said.

In the meantime, at 35 tons of material processed each month, the curbside program remains secondary to Western Recycling's regular recycling business, which processes more than 800 tons a month.

Stephensen hopes the program will turn profitable in the future or at least pay for itself.

Frerichs said she's seeing more beige containers popping up on sidewalks, which she takes as a positive sign.

"I hope (recycling grows)," she said. "I get encouraged when I drive on curbside pickup day and I see new bins out. It always makes me happy. I want to go up to my neighbors and say, 'Thanks for participating.' "

Zach Kyle can be reached at 542-6746. Comment on this story on Post Talk at www.postregister.com/posttalk.