OTE - Oregon Travel Experience

Recycle conundrum solved

Posted on: November 20th, 2014 by Madeline MacGregor in News & Press | No Comments

Keeping it clean and cans contained

Santiam rest area grounds.Santiam Highway Safety Rest Area (located on I-5 north of Albany) is a small jewel of land sprinkled with trees, flowers and grassy plains. Walking paths leading to the Santiam River invite motorists to step out of the main parking lot and view wildlife along the riverbank. Green swaths of farmland abut the rest area, adding to the overall sense of space and relaxation.

How does Oregon Travel Experience keep this public space pristine? Much of the effort comes from the traveling public—by depositing pop cans, water bottles and plastic into the recycling containers, reducing the overall clutter and temptation to litter.

OTE supports these simple steps to sustainability and responded to numerous public requests for recycling containers by installing them at our rest areas. However, good intentions raised another challenge for rest area staff: how to keep container contents contained.

How to make it so

Josh Flores is Santiam Rest Area’s rest area specialist and uses infinite sweat equity to maintain the grounds.

“When we first got the recycle containers I thought, ‘Great! This is exactly what people wanted and will help reduce clutter and garbage cans overflowing,’ ” says Flores, “BuNew containers working great at Santiam rest areat they created an entirely different problem.”

Flores would arrive for his shift and find recycle containers upended, on their sides, and rolled into walkways. Some of the contents would be scattered and missing. When container liners also began to disappear, Flores realized he was not dealing with a wildlife invasion but rather a human problem.

“It was getting really bad,” says Flores. “People were stealing the liners from the cans and going around to all of the containers and sifting through, creating an enormous mess. I had to figure out something that would modify the original containers so that motorists would still be able to place cans and bottles through the top, but prevent others from collecting the contents.”

For many, can and bottle redemption represents needed income. While perfectly understandable, the “collection” from the rest area’s publicly owned containers became a much larger problem by attracting wildlife pests and creating safety hazards for other visitors.

Steel cans rolling into parking lots and damaging cars and pedestrians stumbling over scattered aluminum or cutting themselves on broken glass all represent risk factors to the recycling program.Re-fashioned recycle containers.

The solution? Flores attached a steel top and bar to the containers, cutting a circular opening into the top. This allows just enough room for a can or bottle yet is not large enough for a hand to reach through. The containers are also locked to ensure that only qualified staff empty the contents.

With Flores’ resolve, the recycling program at Santiam Rest Area should continue to be successful and help keep the grounds clean, safe and accessible to all. OTE is fortunate to retain innovative problem-solving employees like Flores, across the state. Without their engagement and commitment to Oregon’s traveling public, our publicly owned rest areas would be far less welcoming.

Want to make a change?

Keeping grounds clean even in Oregon rain.It is OTE’s mission and our goal to create safe, clean, welcoming environments to all travelers on our highways.

Let us know what you think. If you have ideas or suggestions about how to improve our services, email us or comment on our Facebook page.

If you run into something notable, either positive or negative, snap a photo with your mobile and let us see it in real time from your perspective. Send your images to the email link above and tell us the day, time, and rest area where you encountered the problem (or positive change). We will always take time to acknowledge your comments and email.

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