For Ed Skudlarek, taking advantage of Carson City's curbside recycling program is just one small part of a lifestyle where "reduce, reuse, recycle" truly are words to live by.
A wetlands conservation planner with the Nevada Natural Heritage Program, he rides his bicycle or walks to as many places as is reasonable and as weather permits - including work. He and wife, Melodie, also compost, use water efficiently, use people-powered tools for most garden and other household tasks, recharge batteries, buy used items whenever feasible, and try to carry their purchases in fabric shopping bags instead of paper or plastic ones, among other environmentally friendly practices.
"Of course we participate," he said of the curbside program. "We're happy the city offers this. It's kind of nice."
Nevada doesn't require municipalities to recycle, but does recommend that 25 percent of waste generated be recycled. Carson City is compiling its recycling data for 2006 and expects to have the results ready within the next few weeks.
"Consumerism, materialism - it's so embedded and so hard to get away from," he said. "It takes a lot of effort. You have to make a choice not to be persuaded by ads, you have to believe there is an alternative to buying into consumer culture."
A "Three R's" existence, as Skudlarek referred to it, has plenty of advantages: better health through exercise and lifting things, less pollution and a fatter wallet because buying used items and consuming less energy save money.
"And it keeps things a lot simpler," Skudlarek said. "I believe it really works for us."
The city's curbside pickups alone garner more than 300 tons of recyclables a month, on average. Carson City last year reached 47 percent, according to the state environmental protection division.
When it comes to recycling, Carson City "is a leader in the state," said Chet Sergent, the state's recycling coordinator in Northern Nevada.
Washoe County only recycles 30 percent while Clark County is at just 19 percent, for example, Sergent said.
The city's curbside program costs more to provide than what it takes in from customers, "but that's just the way it goes," said Bill Field, district manager of Waste Management Inc.'s Carson City office.
The corporation also does the city's curbside trash pickup, but doesn't serve every local dwelling or business. Up to 60 percent of their customers take advantage of curbside recycling pickups.
Residents' bills for trash average about $40 for every three months. They pay $1.25 a month for curbside recycling service. It was $1 a month until the price was raised recently, Field said.
Only one curbside recycling program existed in the United States 20 years ago. By 2005, there were almost 9,000, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The national recycling goal rate is about 30 percent, and the EPA is considering boosting it to 35 percent.
Carson City has had a program since the early 1990s. While state law used to require it offer the service based on population, a revision of the rules excluded communities with populations of less than 100,000. It kept the program going "because residents like the convenience of it," said Darren Selby, the city's public works operations chief.
While the curbside recycling program isn't a moneymaker for Waste Management, the Carson City Sanitary Landfill is expected to be in the black.
Its rates were restructured last year, providing price breaks for residents and charging more to out-of-towners and large haulers bringing loads for drop-offs.
Recycling drop-offs at the landfill are free.
"There's a certain contentedness in not being persuaded, and a certain amount of satisfaction in beating the system and not buying things," Skudlarek said. "I understand people want to recreate, travel, expand their horizons, but I need to know I'm minimizing my impact on the earth."
He and family members live in Carson City because natural surroundings are close and plentiful, he said.
When the Board of Supervisors begins considering its budget for the upcoming 2008 fiscal year, which begins July 1, any profits from the landfill will be used to offset costs for equipment to provide some services to residents, said Linda Ritter, city manager.
Regional Waste Management representatives said they plan to ask for a raise in curbside service rates to offset increased costs for bringing trash to the landfill, as the company's contract with the city requires it do with local refuse. They haven't asked for one yet, Ritter said.
• The Carson City Sanitary Landfill is at 7001 Highway 50 East.
• Waste Management is at 5560 Sheep Drive.
• Residents with questions about how to recycle or dispose of something questionable can call Carson City Public Works 887-2355 for details. Residents can drop off hazardous household waste by appointment.
Curbside: Aluminum cans, food cans, newspaper, plastic bottles and glass. No cardboard, but bundle newspaper, magazines and catalogs for pickup. Paper bags can also be used to hold recyclable paper.
Recycling drops to the landfill are free
Bring motor oil, car batteries and antifreeze.
Other types of waste In-county min. charge Out-of-county min. charge
Medical: $72 not accepted
Dead animals: $30 not accepted
Appliances, tubs: $6 $12
Autos, motorcycles, boats, campers less than 30 feet long: $6 $12
Tree stumps larger than 18 inches in diameter: $7 each $14 each
- Source: Carson City
What happens to the stuff?
Carson City residents can have recyclable items picked up every two weeks outside their homes. It's usually a different day than regular trash pickups.
Cost is roughly $1.25 each month and reusable plastic crates are provided by Waste Management Inc. for aluminum cans, tin cans, newspaper, plastic bottles and glass.
If a residents misses their pickup or has recyclables other than those listed, they should take them to the Carson City Sanitary Landfill, 7001 Highway 50 East or Waste Management Inc., 5560 Sheep Drive.
"The hardest part of the process is getting rid of it," said Bill Field, district manager of Waste Management Inc.'s Carson City office.
Recyclables picked up curbside and dropped off at the designated sites are moved along to a regional location for final separation.
RSW Recycling serves as a sorting area before specific recyclables are sent to various locations for processing and reincarnation. Aluminum is sent to a plant in Tennessee for the rest of the work, for example.
• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.