Recycling advocates see rebirth of curbside

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Recycling advocates hope that just as old plastic soda bottles can be reincarnated as handsome fleece pullovers, curbside recycling efforts in Steamboat Springs will be reborn again on Earth Day.

Steamboat has had a curbside recycling program for five years, but the number of participants has slipped to 389 households.

To improve those numbers, the city, trash hauler Waste Management, and Yampa Valley Recycles have agreed to make curbside recycling more convenient and less expensive. Beginning April 24, Steamboat residents, plus those in Steamboat II, Heritage Park and Tree Haus will have curbside recycling included in their basic trash removal bill from Waste Management. Those already paying for recycling will actually see their bills go down by $5. For the first time in Steamboat, recyclables may be co-mingled into two bins. Also for the first time, Waste Management will pick up magazines and corrugated cardboard at the curb. Curbside glass recycling also will return.

Co-mingling will allow customers to place glass bottles, aluminum, steel (or tin cans), and No. 1 and No. 2 plastics all in one bin. A second bin will be used for newsprint, magazines and flattened corrugated cardboard, all in one bin. Curbside recyclers, even those who are currently customers, need to call Waste Management at 879-2400 to be placed on the new route list. The old recycling bins will no longer be used, and customers will be asked to make a one-time investment of $20 for the purchase of two new bins for co-mingled recyclables. The program begins April 24, and recyclables will be picked up every other trash day, as they have been in the past.

City Council is in the process of formalizing the changes in the form of an ordinance that requires curbside recycling of any trash hauler operating in the city.

"The recycling committee has worked very, very hard to find out what people want and where they want to go. We're trying to work with the city and the committee," Mike Stinson said. He is Waste Management's site manager in Steamboat.

It was just a year ago that Waste Management in Steamboat increased the monthly fee for curbside recycling from $2 per month to $5 per month in an effort to offset its costs. Now, with a new Waste Management sorting facility on line in Grand Junction, the emphasis has changed from increasing cash flow from customers, to increasing the flow of recyclables into the Grand Junction facility.

"We have the equipment, we have the people -- we need the volume," Stinson said.

Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said the new curbside recycling ordinance will assure that any trash hauling company that might choose to operate in the city in the future, will have to offer curbside recycling as part of its basic rate.

The new ordinance also requires monthly reports to the city, so data on how much material is actually diverted from the Milner Landfill, can be gathered.

Stinson said he's heard the persistent rumors that Waste Management actually hauls some of the recycled materials it gathers to the Milner landfill. In fact, he says he receives not infrequent calls from customers who ask him why the company does that. To the contrary, Stinson said all of the recyclables his company collects are shipped to an end-user who recycles them.

Stinson said the only reason he can think of to explain why people think the recyclables are hauled to the landfill is that Connell Resources, where the glass crusher is located, is west of Steamboat on U.S. 40, on the way to the landfill.

Stinson and DuBord agreed last year's price increase had an impact on the number of curbside recycling customers. Combine that with the fact that many people were driving to Waste Management's recycling yard on Steamboat's west side to recycle glass and cardboard, and there was even less incentive to pay for curbside recycling.

"We would just like to see everybody recycling," DuBord said. Now, it will cost no more, and Waste Management will pick up you can currently drop off."


Curbside recycling
The ordinance provides regulatory support for recycling, DuBord said, but the important job of educating the public to increase the number of participating households, will fall to Yampa Valley Recycles.

YVR has just announced a new program called "Recycling Wranglers." The wranglers will be volunteers age 10 to adult who will assist the recycling effort.

Spokeswoman Mayling Simpson-Hebert said some volunteers will meet recyclers who don't have curbside service at the Waste management yard and help them unload their materials. Adult volunteers even will pick up recyclables from people with physical limitations."Convenience is the big factor," Simpson-Hebert said. We felt having to pay for curbside recycling was a disincentive, and co-mingling is going to make it convenient."

The goals are to make it easier for Routt County residents to participate in recycling, educating the public to reduce, reuse and recycle, and to increase the total tonnage of recyclables diver from the landfill, according to Simpson-Hebert.


-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210 or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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