How does Big Sky discard its trash?

“I love this crummy weather,” Oscar the Grouch once reflected. “Gotta chill this hot chocolate down so it tastes good and yucky.” Oscar, the vaguely grumpy Muppet from Sesame Street, grew up in a curbside trashcan. Now his character inhabits a network of compost and recycle bins, illustrating the evolving ways we deal with our disposables.

Big Sky, like Sesame Street, is changing with the times of trash collection. About 23 years ago, residents and visitors simply threw away most of their unwanted items. Now we have a growing array of choices. Trash, like road signage, is another example of a typically municipal service that is the responsibility of individuals and homeowners associations.

For trash disposal, residents either use curbside pickup or their condominium HOA’s shared receptacle. Until about a year ago, there was only one option for a service provider — Republic Services, an Arizona-based company. L&L Site Services, a locally owned and operated company, recently obtained a license from the state Public Service Commission to collect trash in Big Sky. The competition has been good for the consumer.

Short-term renters, campers and motor home users are unsure of how to dispose of their garbage at the end of their Big Sky vacation. Without a conspicuous solution, they’re prone to poach unlocked dumpsters. Local property managers field frequent calls from frustrated folks. “Where is the dump?” they want to know.

The dump is in Logan, Montana. Sixty miles north of Big Sky, you’ll find the landfill that serves much of southwest Montana. It’s an astounding (if not somewhat depressing) sight to see. A transfer station a few miles north of West Yellowstone is the closest location to discard debris.

Local public recycling is a moving target. For the time being, we have free recycling on a site sponsored by Hass Construction just south of the Exxon on highway 191. Gallatin County pays a portion of the costs associated with that site. Four Corners Recycling accepts cardboard, steel and aluminum cans, #1 and #2 plastic, and paper there. Curbside recycling is available through Republic Services and L&L Site Services as an add-on to trash pick-up.

Glass recycling is another story. Because the closest facility is in Salt Lake City, few Montanans can justify the financial and environmental costs. Some local businesses, however, choose to have their used wine and beer bottles hauled to Utah. If individuals want to do so, they should contact Four Corners Recycling.

On the other hand, cardboard is about half as expensive to recycle as it is to throw away. I love a good incentive! Perhaps the most environmentally impactful trash tactic is to haul your e-waste (microwaves, printers, batteries) to Logan; they have a program that keeps your harmful products out of the landfill altogether. Reduce and re-use are good too!

Composting is a great option for food waste if you have a bear-safe container at home. Or you can buy compost at the Big Sky County Water & Sewer District for gardening and landscaping. It costs $25 per yard and is an excellent way to ‘shop local’. They even deliver!

Detritus is deleterious, especially in a spot where our natural beauty is our most valuable asset.

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