Everyone loves a freebie, and some people in Steamboat Springs are turning "green" with enthusiasm.
The number of local households taking advantage of curbside recycling has more than doubled since the end of April, when Waste Management, the city of Steamboat Springs and Yampa Valley Recycles combined to make the service free to single-family households. Before Earth Day on April 22, the number of recycling households had stagnated at 389 out of a possible 1,500 single-family homes. Today, the number of households has increased to 904, according to Mike Stinson. He is the local site manager for Waste Management.
Households in Steamboat Springs still pay $20 a month for their trash pickup. However, since Earth Day on April 22, they've been able to recycle glass, newspaper, aluminum, corrugated cardboard, "tin cans" and some kinds of plastic at no additional charge. For most of the last five years, curbside recycling had cost an additional $2 on the monthly bill. Then in 1999, the fee went up to $5 a month. But the city, which has a financial stake in the materials recycling facility in Waste Management's yard in Steamboat, passed an ordinance this year requiring that curbside recycling be offered at no additional charge.
Waste Management has not raised its rates since the ordinance went into effect. And although the city can't regulate the rate the company charges for trash pickup, Stinson has said the company does not plan to raise its rates to cover curbside recycling.
Multifamily housing projects, including resort condominiums, still aren't offered free curbside recycling. But Stinson said his company's local sales representative, Ken Bohney, is working on a deal with local property management companies. Waste Management regards multifamily housing subdivisions as commercial accounts, Stinson said. Stuart Orzach, a member of Yampa Valley Recycles, has been working on ways to extend free curbside recycling to condos, townhomes and apartments, and has received encouragement from the city, he said.
Sue Oakley, chairwoman of Yampa Valley Recycles, said extending the service to multifamily housing would definitely increase the impact of the local recycling program.
"It would open up another realm of (recyclables) to divert from the landfill," Oakley said.
She was excited by the news that recycling participation is on the rise.
"That's fantastic," Oakley said. "Of course, Yampa Valley Recycles would like to see 100 percent participation in a free and convenient program."
Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord acknowledged she was a little discouraged after the first month of the free curbside program, when participation increased by just 54 households. Her outlook has changed now that 904 homes have signed up.
"I'm really happy that we've got that many households," DuBord said. "It was pretty dismal at first."
The city ordinance that mandated free curbside recycling also requires Waste Management to file reports on the volume of recyclables it is taking in. But Stinson said some of the advantages of the company's new recycling system are making it a challenge to break out the volume of each material in tons.
Waste Management's construction of a new sorting facility in Grand Junction has allowed curbside recyclers to commingle newsprint together with cardboard, Stinson explained. Similarly, recyclers can place their glass, No. 1 and No. 2 plastic, aluminum, glass and tin cans all in one bin. Presently, Steamboat Springs recyclables are hauled to a Waste Management yard in Silverthorne, then picked up by a truck and hauled to Grand Junction, Stinson said. Because the amount of each recyclable items varies from trip to trip and they are commingled, Stinson said Waste Management has not yet developed reliable numbers to report to the city.
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