Free recycling draws few takers

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— In the last month, 88 people have signed up for the city's new free curbside recycling program, upping Waste Management's recycling customers to 668.

Trash haulers at Waste Management are taking away 60 cubic yards a week of tin, aluminum and plastic recyclables.

The Yampa Valley Recycles program received the Colorado Recyclers of the the Year award last week at the 2000 Colorado Summit for Recycling. The award is given by the Office of Energy Conservation for the volunteer groups accomplishments in the last year. Primarily, Yampa Valley Recycles was recognized for its efforts in expanding Steamboats curbside recycling and for hosting the Recycling Summit in March. Yampa Valley Recycles is really a terrific volunteer group, Steamboat City Council member Arianthtettner said. The City of Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Craig, the Routt County commissioners and the Chamber Resort Association nominated the group for the award. Stettner said Yampa Valley Recycles has worked hard for years to increase the awareness recycling opportunities in the valley. Yampa Valley Recycles also organized an outrageously successful household hazardous waste collection day that should be noted, she said.

"That's up a little bit," Waste Management site manager Mike Stinson said.

Though he didn't know the actual numbers of how much more recyclable materials are being kept out of the local landfill since the program has started, Stinson is impressed with the results.

"We're going to keep doing it because it's a good program," he said.

Sue Oakley, president of Yampa Valley Recycles, was happy the numbers are going up, but was surprised they weren't higher. Everyone in Steamboat Springs who gets their garbage hauled by Waste Management can receive curbside recycling without an additional cost if they call Waste Management to sign up. Oakley wondered why more people don't do it.

"It's free, it's easy, what else can you ask for?" she said.

The new program began April 24 with Waste Management offering the pick-up recycling for all of its customers in Steamboat Springs. People had to pay a one-time fee to purchase recycling bins.

"We still find it difficult to educate the public on the availability of the program," Oakley said.

The curbside recycling marked a long struggle for the Yampa Valley Recycles to try to get more people to recycle in the Yampa Valley.

For Stinson, the key to the program is density.

Because it just serves Steamboat, all the recycling pickups are in close proximity to each other, keeping the costs of hauling the material down, he said.

It's difficult for the company to extend its recycling routes into the rest of Routt County because it's not financially feasible, he added.

Waste Management recently bought out High Country Roll-Off and acquired contracts in Hayden for 600 houses and Oak Creek for 300 houses.

Curbside recycling is not offered in those areas right now. Stinson said he needs to take a closer look at the numbers there before he knows if it will work.

"We're going to look at getting the trash part under control first," he said.

It took a long time to build up enough people in Steamboat to make the program work, Stinson said. It could take a while in Oak Creek and Hayden, too, if they decided to go though with it.

"We just don't want to jump into a program and not have it work out," he said.

Right now, the only option for recycling most materials in those areas is for residents to drive the bottles and cans to Steamboat Springs to dispose of them in bins at the Waste Management site on Downhill Drive.

Oakley knows that the volume in Oak Creek and in Hayden could never be the same as in Steamboat, but she believes the program would be successful if Waste Management advertised for it strongly.

"There are people in those places who recycle and would not want to have to drive to Steamboat to do so," she said.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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