Andy Kennedy and Emilie Rogers: Recycle drop-off spots


We at Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, in partnership with Routt County, Waste Management, Twin Enviro and the city of Steamboat Springs, have spent the past two years struggling to provide adequate options for the high demand on our public recycling drop-off locations. As you may know, in January, Waste Management had to begin charging for recycling drop off at their Downhill Drive location, due to the increasing expense that recycling has incurred.

While these recyclable products can be sold (plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, metals), the value of those products is extremely low (and still dropping), the process requires manpower, trucking/transportation and other expensive overhead, and therefore recycling can be two to five times more expensive than the disposal of waste in a traditional landfill.

But recycling is still the right thing to do. It helps with: protecting our environment, reducing our impact on the planet and preserving our beautiful open spaces for generations to come.

We and our partners appreciate your patience while we come up with an alternative plan for the now-discontinued “Green Machines” at Safeway.

YVSC, Routt County, the city Steamboat Springs and LBA Associates are currently in the middle of an extensive feasibility study on traditional recycling. The study will assess local and regional markets of these products, overall and specific costs for the complete processes of recycling from collection to distribution, resulting in information to help us develop a comprehensive plan for infrastructure, processing, mechanisms, and policies.

In the meantime, we appreciate you looking into the option for curbside recycling, or using either the Waste Management (Downhill Drive) or Twin Enviro (Milner Landfill) drop-off locations. Both will have a nominal fee.

To stay up to date on recycling updates in Steamboat, please sign up for our mailings at

Andy Kennedy and Emilie Rogers

Yampa Valley Sustainability Council


Paige Boucher 2 years, 8 months ago

Thank you Andy and Emilie for your dedication to this effort. While this study on alternative recycling plans is going on, let's also look at how we can cut down on the amount of recycling we produce by reusing goods when possible. We've all gotten better at remembering our reusable bags when we grocery shop, and I've noticed that many shops around town now ask if we need a bag when only one or two items are purchased, instead of automatically bagging the items. We've made progress! What else can we do? The obvious efforts include using both sides of paper, reusing boxes for shipping, pack lunches in reusable containers rather than baggies, buy in bulk and don't buy individual portions of food and ask manufacturers to minimize packaging in the first place. What else? Let's share ideas. These steps are small, but small efforts add up. Thank you.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

First thing to remember is that recycling up here so far away means that hauling costs kills any potential profits from recycling. So, recycling programs have always been depending upon government subsidies from tipping fees at the dump.

The obvious problem is the ideological commitment to single stream recycling. The recycled materials have to be sorted. Single stream materials have to be hauled to Denver for processing in Waste Management's massive expensive Materials Recovery Facility. That is their business plan and Waste Management does not participate in other recycling facilities.

Locally we cannot afford single stream recycling. A good single stream recycling facility costs $50 million and paying for hauling single stream recycling materials to Denver for processing is unaffordable. We are simply too small and remote to insist upon single stream recycling. The subcontractors who pick up for the curbside program often do their own sorting to gain value in what they are picking up. But it is only economical for them because they are being paid for each curbside pick up.

Common sense says we must adopt to dual stream recycling. The two streams could be hauled to Eagle County's MRF at a fraction of the cost of the Green Machine program. We should be able to locally process the paper/cardboard stream with revenues about covering the costs. Plastic and glass are a cost for recycling and they can either be "used" at the Milner landfill or hauled to Eagle County MRF to be processed to actually be recycled.


Cresean Sterne 2 years, 8 months ago

Eagle county does it and they dont seem to have a problem with the distance it takes. Edwards has a great recycling program that sits at the rest stop off I-70.. I have heard of no issues with expenses to run these.. Also, Sanfrancisco, which in my opinion should be the modle that citys look at has a 90% trash recycling and yes it is single stream. It is so successful that they are working on a 100% recycling including the trash which will all be single stream. Dual stream recycling is fine as long as the card board is broken down and there isnt an extra gas expense for the install and removal of these containers and more employee expenses.. I dont have the answer to Steamboats recycling problem but I would love to see an expense break down from start to finish published. Then maybe with community input, we can come up with a cost effective solution


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

Eagle County is several times the population of Routt County. They got a couple million in grants to build their MRF. And their costs to haul from drop off sites to their MRF is substantial and an ongoing issue. Their MRF doesn't make enough for them to pay for materials being dropped off.

As for San Francisco, that is a whole different category because they don't have a nearby dump so their garbage rates are about twice as our local rates. It is cheaper for them to recycle than to haul (ship by barge) to their dump in the North Bay. They also have the huge volumes needed to afford an expensive sorting facility and have a ready local market for their recycled materials. Their bales of cardboard can be directly shipped to China and so on.

Waste Management last year charged $300+ per Green Machine dropoff/pickup. So the two Green Machines at Safeway was costing $600+ per weekend.

Recycling is being provided by privately owned companies and they don't release their internal costs from start to finish.

The challenge is to come up with alternative approaches that are a more effective use of the local government subsidy via the tipping fees collected by Routt County.

For instance, a 30' 5th wheel trailer can be purchased for $15,000 and have sides and top built to be like a Green Machine on wheels. It could have two compartments to support dual stream recycling. It would hold more than twice as much as a Green Machine. Different local licensed and insured haulers said they'd be willing to haul it to and from Eagle County MRF for $250. Eagle County MRF said they would gladly accept it. Thus, we could cut the costs in more than half of local drop off recycling vs using the Green Machines.

I proposed that last year to YVSC. They told me I should go out and do it and they'd then consider funding it. I thought it was funny how they routinely funded the existing inefficient method and wanted a lower cost alternative to be self funding. I wanted them to propose to the county commissioners the purchase and conversion of a trailer in order to halve the weedly costs of local recycling.

YVSC's answer was no. That their longer term plan is studies and hoping for land and lots of money from SB City government. And so we are where we are today.


Cary Foulk 2 years, 8 months ago

Here is a relevant article that was coincidentally brought to my attention today. There are a couple of things brought up in the article that make you think. Dual stream recycling does seem to be a better option for not much more effort.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

Good link, Cary.

A longer article might have been able to include more on how Single Stream is a corporate strategy for Waste Management. Since Waste Management is the largest garbage company then they alone can typically afford the single stream MRF. And they are not environmental idealists so they don't care how much material is being reused. They care about winning market share and with single stream they can offer a service not available from their competition. Thus, if they can sell the local politicians on the ease of single stream then they win market share.

That YVSC is doing or seeking a study is yet again government funds to pay for a consultant to tell them what is already known. Eagle County studied it in depth prior to building their dual stream MRF. Those studies considered single stream and so on. So what part of those studies are irrelevant to Routt County?


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