Town looking for answer to area recycling riddle

Ponders shipping recyclables to Denver

Recycling in the north end of the valley remains uncertain as the Town of Crested Butte, Waste Management and Gunnison County continue to discuss options that could either keep services status quo or significantly increase costs.



 During a work session on Monday, January 14, the Crested Butte Town Council met with representatives from Waste Management and the county to discuss three possible options for providing recycling within Town.
A fourth option from the Office for Resource Efficiency (ORE) may also be considered.
The discussion began last spring after the county changed what recyclables it was willing to accept and the local trash-hauling company Waste Management stopped picking up green and clear glass and corrugated cardboard. The town created a drop-off recycling center in response but was forced to close it in October, claiming it was no longer able to fund the program.
Currently Waste Management residential curbside recycling within Crested Butte collects aluminum and tin, brown glass, and newspaper, catalogs and magazines, according to Scott Martinez, senior district manager for Waste Management.
At Monday’s meeting, Martinez introduced the three options as maintaining current services, creating an alternative week program or implementing a single-stream process. An alternative week program involves picking up certain recyclables one week and others the alternating week, while a single-stream process picks up all commodities at once, and ships them outside of the county.
Martinez said the three options had both pros and cons to them, and possible renegotiations of the town’s contract would be needed, depending on what option the Council pursued.
Several Council members expressed concern with the three options, as they would either keep recycling status quo, increase costs for residents, or cut the Gunnison County Recycling Center in Gunnison out of the partnership.
However, Kendall Kahl, ORE’s program assistant, said the nonprofit would be willing to work with the town to develop a fourth option that might be able to improve services and keep them local. ORE board member Vicki Shaw also said ORE would like to make the project a priority for 2008 in the nonprofit’s contract with the town.
“ORE could offer research of what’s happening, and look at the carbon footprint of each option,” Shaw said. “I would like to see that be apart of the conversation because it just seems to me that there could be some more information brought into the discussion.”
Council member Kimberly Metsch added, “This does seem to be a good place for partnering with ORE.”
One of three options discussed was alternate week recycling. Alternate week recycling would involve Waste Management picking up certain items on weeks 1 and 3 and different recyclables on weeks 2 and 4. Waste Management trucks can pick up only four or fewer items without co-mingling and contaminating items, Joy Cunningham, manager at Waste Management, explained.
Martinez says this option will not increase costs, while allowing for more commodities to be picked up. However, for the program to be successful, residents would have to play a greater role.
 “The issue that would face us all is education of the customer,” Martinez said, explaining if commodities were mixed they would be contaminated and not eligible for recycling.
The second option presented involves implementing a single stream process where six commodities—plastics 1 and 2, newspaper, cardboard, green, clear and brown glass, office paper and aluminum—would be picked up every week and shipped to Denver. The option eliminates concern with contamination because recyclable material can be placed in the same bin.
However, according to Martinez, the option would take the county recycling program out of the equation. Currently, Waste Management drops off at the county’s recycling center, contributing a revenue stream for the county. Martinez also said this option could increase monthly costs for trash removal and recycling services $7 to $10 per home.
“We try to work with local communities and not cut anyone out,” Martinez said.
Marlene Crosby, assistant county manager, said the loss of volume could have negative impacts for the county.
Crosby said it costs the county $175,000 a year to run the recycling center.
“Any time we lose volume it’s a concern, you have to have a minimum amount to have a business—do we want to lose volume? Absolutely not,” Crosby said.
The third option, according to Martinez, would be to keep services at their current level, which would include aluminum and tin, brown glass, and newspaper, catalogs and magazines. The county’s recycling center accepts clear and green glass, office paper and corrugated cardboard dropped off by individuals, according to Crosby. The county also accepts newspaper, number one and two plastics, and brown glass. The drop-off center is open six days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Kahl said ORE would favor other options over streamlining materials to Denver because of the economic and environmental consequences involved with the option, such as lost jobs and air pollution. Kahl added that ORE could help find funding to handle the materials locally in Crested Butte.
During an interview after the meeting, ORE executive director Gesa Michel said, “We are inclined and eager to assist the town and possibly think out of the box and look to further options, including funding opportunities. We will definitely be working with the different initiates.”
Town manager Susan Parker warned the Town Council to consider residents’ capacity to pay and said providing recycling services could require an additional town department. Parker also expressed concern with getting grants to support a recycling program, as they are not consistent and reliable sources of income.
Council member Dan Escalante recommended the council place recycling as a higher priority next year during the budget process so the town could provide better services to residents.
Council member Billy Rankin said the council definitely needed to look at the options to see which one would allow for the greatest amount of recycling.
“We need to look at our options and whatever solution that we go with, I want to be sensitive to the county, but I also want to see as many people as possible recycling as much as they can,” Rankin said.
According to the Colorado Association for Recycling, 35 percent of 271 municipalities in Colorado have curbside recycling.
Williams said after the meeting that she doesn’t anticipate the council making a decision for a couple of months. She said the council would like to wait until ORE comes forward with a fourth option.
“The current options are kind of bleak,” Williams said.

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