Kingston ferries right an environmental wrong

The Kingston ferry terminal, as of May 1, is carrying through with its recycling program.  - Kelly Joines/Staff Photo
The Kingston ferry terminal, as of May 1, is carrying through with its recycling program.
— image credit: Kelly Joines/Staff Photo

t Recycling bins were all for naught

until May 1.

KINGSTON —?Although recycling bins were installed onboard Washington State Ferries in the 1990s, they were all for show on the Kingston/Edmonds route.

Even though the bins were installed 17 years ago the project never got off the ground. “People’s awareness has now really forced the issue.”

Mixed recycling efforts on behalf of the Kingston Ferry Terminal literally went to waste until just a few weeks ago.

“We’ve always had a compactor at Kingston we just didn’t have recycling set up so everything went into the Dumpster,” he said.

But no more.

Terry Bickel, Waste Management district manager for Kitsap County, said as of May 1, the Kingston terminal started weekly pickups of two six-yard containers — one for cardboard and one for mixed recyclables. The recyclables taken off the ferry in Edmonds were recycled if the crews had time to do so. It was only on the Kingston side that recyclables made their way to trash bins.

“It looks like they’ve converted one of their containers to single stream (mixed recycling) and still have one for cardboard,” he said.

Mixed recyclables includes all clean fiber (papers), clean plastic (soda bottles), aluminum and tin cans. It does not include plastic bags or glass.

Currently, Hunting said WSF is working on getting recycling pickups started at the Port Townsend and Bainbridge Island terminals. Both ferries’ recyclables have been collected at the other end of the run: at Whidbey Island for Port Townsend’s ferry and Seattle for Bainbridge Island.

Jonathan Ohldes, WSF environmental program manager, said there were multiple reasons why WSF took so long to follow through with completing the recycling process.

“The ferries initially tried to rollout recycling in the 1990s but the towns the terminals are in didn’t have services to meet the program so it was put on the back burner and out of focus,” Ohldes said. “We thought that getting new cans on the boats would revitalize the program at the terminals.”

The new cans were another problem, Ohldes said.

This winter, people were curious as to why the old recycling bins suddenly disappeared off the vessels in November and December.

At that time, WSF contracted the making of new bins that would prevent worker injuries.

“It was a process to develop the cans and it took time engineering them in a way where workers can lift out from the front, not the top. They needed to be sized appropriately so they wouldn’t be too heavy for workers to lift,” he said.

Correctional Industries manufactured the new bins last year. The first order was placed in May 2007 with the intention to replace the old ones by this spring.

Another challenge Ohldes faces is a lack of manpower behind the environmental projects.

“We don’t have staff to devote to the recycling program,” he said. “I’ve been working it forward as I find time.”

Ohldes said he doesn’t believe there is a specific budget for recycling.

“We are accommodating it under our existing operating budget because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Theoretically, recycling more should reduce our waste cost but I don’t think we are going to realize that. It’s just not practical.”

Ohldes said each time a container needs to be picked up, it costs WSF money.

If there is less in waste — which in Kingston waste is compacted to save room — there will be more in recycling, potentially generating the need for additional containers.

“It doesn’t necessarily reduce our cost but we are being good stewards,” Ohldes said. “We realize that our business has the potential to affect the environment so we are trying to find the most responsible ways to go about it.”

Ohldes said WSF continues to look into fuel conservation and biodiesel programs and study the effects of underdock lighting to improve fish migration.

“The biggest challenge is trying to move recycling programs forward when we have so many other things to deal with,” he said. “We appreciate people’s patience with us trying to get this rolled out but it is also important to us to get the system running effectively.”

Ohldes said he hopes to have recycling programs set by late spring and believes WSF is on track in achieving its goal.

“It’s not for lack of good intentions that the ferries aren’t as far along as some would like,” he said in reference to the environmental program. “We could be more effective when we do get the resources we need. There is work to be done but there is limited resources for getting it done right now.”

Bickel said from the Waste Management perspective, the biggest problem is getting people to follow the instructions on mixed recyclables.

“It only takes one customer to foul up one truck and have it all sent back,” he said.

Each WM truck sent to the recycling sorting plant holds 30 tons of recyclables. If it is contaminated with garbage, it’s sent back.

Kitsap County has a 3 percent contamination rate — the lowest in Washington, Bickel said.

“Our commercial and residential customers are doing a great job,” he said.

However, to dispose of recyclables, it costs WM $62 per ton, or $1,860 per truck.

“Just transportation alone costs thousands of dollars per trailer, with the price of fuel right now,” he said. “We burn 8,000 gallons of fuel a day.”

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