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Byrd: Dickinson should take up plastic recycling

Klark Byrd

Sometimes it makes me sad to look into my garbage bin behind my desk. It seems that by the end of the week there's so much plastic in there, and in Dickinson there's nowhere for it to go except into the city's landfill.

This week I decided to conduct an experiment. I pulled all the plastic material out of my bin and looked at what remained. There was hardly enough trash to cover the bottom of my trash bag. Every piece of plastic I put back into the bag asked me to recycle it -- practically begged me with the familiar tri-arrow recycling symbol -- but alas, in this town I cannot.

It boggles my mind that right here in western North Dakota right now we are hard at work drilling miles under the surface of the earth to extract oil -- a primary ingredient in plastic -- only for the same people to turn around and bury so much of it in landfills.

Fortunately, some North Dakota cities are seeing a benefit to offering recycling to residents. Bismarck, for instance, announced in the middle of last month that it will begin a curbside service in 2014. I'm not here to suggest that Dickinson do the same, but why not offer plastics recycling?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 32 million tons of plastic waste were generated in 2011. Of that, only 8 percent was recovered for recycling. Yet, recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator, according to ALA Recycling Industries.

In Press reporter Bryan Horwath's Aug. 16 story on recycling, Dickinson Solid Waste Manager Aaron Praus said Dickinson offers some recycling, including taking cardboard, unbagged vegetation, aluminum cans, metals, cold ashes, used oils and co-mingled paper products. And for that effort, I cheer the city on.

Of course, recycling comes at a slightly increased cost when compared to just throwing something away, but by recycling renewable materials and keeping them out of landfills, landfill cells last longer.

That means we go longer between the construction of new cells, which easily cost in excess of $1 million each. That's important for a growing city that may have a cell expected to last for 50 years at previous disposal rates but that may last for only half as long with its growing population throwing more and more trash away.

Thanks to Walmart, however, Dickinson isn't without some plastic recycling. The retailer offers recycling of plastic shopping bags with drop-off bins inside the doorways.

My wife and I make use of them when we forget to take our cloth shopping bags, which, by the way, hold an extraordinary amount of groceries.

By offering the recycling of some materials, Dickinson is on the right path. Hopefully the city will offer plastics recycling in the near future because this town's population isn't shrinking any time soon and neither is the amount of plastic we throw away.

Byrd is the news editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at or tweet him at klarkbyrd.