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One man’s trash

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Few people watch their garbagemen pick up their trash and recycling, but one who did was Geoff Gilbert. His watchful eyes were not pleased by the results. In the neighborhood of Sixth and Russell, Gilbert looked on in dismay as his BFI garbagemen picked up his “blue bag” recycling and tossed it in the back of the truck along with the non-recyclable garbage.

“I asked some garbagemen later and they said, ‘That goes to the landfill. They were supposed to put it in the side [compartment of the truck],” Gilbert says.

The recycling watchdog called BFI to register his complaint with Hal the route supervisor. “Hal said he would talk to them, but just last week I watched them pull up and do the same thing,” says Gilbert, who didn’t give up.

“I called him again. He said, ‘I just talked to them. You’re right, they threw it in the back.’ He apologized and said he was disciplining them…but I think it’s a good idea to alert people in Missoula that this does happen, and that they might want to keep an eye on their recyclables and report any problems—because I don’t know if this is widespread or not.”

“We follow up on any complaints and make sure that they’re handled,” says Hal, BFI’s route manager, though he wouldn’t disclose the specifics of internal policies, or his last name. Hal did say that most problems with Missoula’s blue bag recycling program stem from customers’ misunderstanding of what they can recycle at curbside, which is limited to newspapers, magazines, aluminum cans, tin cans, plastic milk jugs and plastic pop bottles.

Gilbert is sure that he followed the correct sorting guidelines, and that there was no reason for his recycling to be trashed. Still, he doesn’t think that the error was intentional.

“My intentions are not to blow this out of the water, especially since the garbagemen know where I live, and I could see this coming back to haunt me,” says Gilbert.

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