A City program that gathers aluminum cans and newspapers to purchase trees for local parks is attracting the wrong type of recyclables.
When Trash for Trees began more than 40 years ago, a variety of materials were collected, but since then, the program now solely focuses on aluminum cans and newspapers.
“Bins are taken to a recycling facility by the Solid Waste Division, and proceeds are put into a Trash for Trees fund. They are used to purchase trees for parks,” explained Steven McConnell, city forester with Billings Parks and Recreation.
With bins at three locations throughout Billings – Stewart Park on 26th Street West, Veterans Park on 13th Street West, and Castle Rock Park on Wicks Lane, everything from cardboard, to plastic, glass, batteries, bags of leaves, Christmas trees, and bags of garbage have been left at these sites.
“It significantly diminishes the profitability of these bins, and occasionally requires us to discard contents of the entire bin, wasting the efforts of everyone that contributed clean materials,” said McConnell.
While other recycling sites in Billings collect a wider variety of materials, Billings Parks and Recreation, along with the Solid Waste Division, ask that unbagged, clean cans and newspapers only be placed in the park bins.
To help clarify this message, the program name “Trash for Trees” is no longer displayed on the bin, and instead reads “Turn Recyclables into Trees.”
The chute doors are also clearly labeled “Newspaper Only, Please NO Magazines or Cardboard,” and “Aluminum Cans Only, Please NO Plastic, Glass, or Tin.”
Also, the bin previously located on King Avenue West in the Lowe’s parking lot has been relocated to Stewart Park due to the amount of misuse and garbage disposed at the former location.
Since the inception of Trash for Trees in 1980, 3.9 million pounds of newspapers and 68 tons of aluminum cans have been collected.
The program has earned $112,060 and 2,152 trees have been purchased and planted.
Earth First Aid offers self-serve drop-off bins for plastics, cardboard, office paper, magazines, aluminum cans, and newspapers next to their office at 458 Charles St. in Billings. Glass is also accepted at their office with an extra fee.
Electronics are accepted by Yellowstone E-Waste Solutions in a specially marked bin at the Billings Regional Landfill.
Household Hazardous Waste can also be taken to special bins at the landfill. It's collected, recycled, and properly disposed of by Clean Earth Environmental Solutions.