Boise & Garden City

Changes come to Boise’s orange-bag and composting programs. What you need to know

Recycling in Boise

Here's how to recycle in Boise, including how to use those orange bags.
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Here's how to recycle in Boise, including how to use those orange bags.

If you’re one of Boise’s most dedicated recyclers (or even an average one hoping to get rid of some of your hard-to-recycle plastics), good news is coming your way soon. Ditto if you use compost.

First, the recycling: The city is mailing vouchers good for one free roll of 26 orange bags, which can be picked up at Albertsons and Target stores in Boise as well as both locations of the Boise Co-op.

That’s a change from last year, where the bags themselves were delivered to residential recycling customers. The vouchers are being sent in waves, so if you haven’t seen your voucher yet, you should soon, the city says.

What does this new distribution method mean for you? In the short-term, it means you’ll have to remember to pick up the bags as you shop. In the long run, it means a chance for more thorough recycling — and a second life for those plastics.

Next, the composting: The city announced Wednesday that it has opened a new site in West Boise where residents can pick up finished compost. The site is at 12142 W. Joplin Road (near Chinden and Cloverdale).

The existing location at the Idaho Botanical Garden remains open.

Here are questions and answers about both programs.

How do I sort my recycling in Boise?

Plastics that are marked with a 1 or a 2 go loose into your blue bin as long as they are shaped like a jug, bottle or jar. The city gives examples like peanut butter jars and milk jugs.

That’s where the orange bags come in. Those bags are good for plastics marked 4 through 7 or for many other products, including plastic bags and straws, toothpaste tubes and foam products. More information on what can be used is listed here.

That doesn’t mean everything can go into the bins. “Crinkly lightweight water bottles,” like those you might buy in a 24-pack at the grocery store, must go into the trash. Plastics labeled 3 should go in the trash. ‘Clamshell containers’ or the ones with hinged lids that commonly hold fruit also belong in the trash.

Other products that should be trashed include anything with pesticides or hazardous waste and anything that consists of two materials bonded together, such as plastic pet food bags with paper liners.

Boiseans can still recycle an unlimited amount. Once your blue bin is full, fill a sturdy container with recyclables and clearly label it, and it will get picked up with your recycling.

What do I do with the orange bags when they’re full?

Tie them up securely and toss them into your blue bin with the rest of your recyclables.

What started this program?

This program began last year as a response to changes made to the global recycling market when China banned plastic imports. Many eastern states send their materials to Montreal, according to previous Statesman reporting, but it isn’t cost-efficient for western states to do that.

What happens with the stuff I put into the orange bags?

The bags are separated out at the recycling center. The stuff then gets taken to Renewlogy, a Salt Lake City company, to be turned into diesel fuel. Boise has collected more than 400,000 of these energy bags, equaling more than 42,000 tons of plastic to be processed into fuel.

What if I need more bags?

You can buy more in the same stores where you redeemed your vouchers.

What should I know about picking up compost?

You must be a city resident. Bring a shovel and container, because you’ll be serving yourself. You are supposed to fill out a waiver when picking up compost. You are also supposed to take no more than two two cubic yards of compost per year, about enough to fill the bed of a pickup truck.

Where does Boise’s compost come from?

City residents. Boise launched curbside compost pickup in 2017 and charges homeowners for it. The city says it has collected more than 50,000 tons of compostable material. Composting takes place over 90 to 120 days at the 20 Mile South Composting Facility.

Compost not used by residents is used on city green spaces like parks and golf courses or sold at wholesale.

Business Editor David Staats contributed.

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Hayley covers local government for the Idaho Statesman with a primary focus on Boise. Previously, she worked for the Salisbury Daily Times, the Hartford Courant, the Denver Post and McClatchy’s D.C. bureau. Hayley graduated from Ohio University with degrees in journalism and political science.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.