VAIL — Town officials have spent nearly four years creating a mandatory recycling law. On Tuesday they said the measure isn’t quite ready yet.
After lengthy discussions in both the afternoon and evening sessions, Vail Town Council members voted Tuesday for a two-week delay before possibly giving final approval to a measure that would require the town’s trash haulers to provide recycling services to residents and businesses. Council members cited a number of potential problems with the proposed law as the reason for the delay.
The reasons include questions about wildlife-proofing recycling containers, enforcement in hotels and condo complexes, and the prospect that some businesses might not be able to comply with the new regulations.
Council member Margaret Rogers suggested that the new law should include a “hardship” provision granting businesses extra time to figure out how to include recycling bins in the limited space they now have for trash. Other council members agreed with Rogers’ idea, but details of just how a business might get extra time to comply with the ordinance will have to be hammered out over the next couple of weeks.
Bear-proof recycling bins — and the cost of those bins — pose a problem for council member Dave Chapin, who noted that the bear-resistant trash can at his home cost $300. Adding another $300 for a bear-proof recycling container would be a burden on many residents, Chapin said.
Mayor Andy Daly asked if it might be possible to require people to put out their recycling only early in the morning on pickup days — something Chapin said would probably work.
But council member Greg Moffet — who lives in a neighborhood rich with wildlife — questioned just how effective the ordinance could be at keeping wildlife away from the containers and reducing the town’s carbon footprint.
“If we’re not bear-proofing (recyclables), why are we bear-proofing anything?” Moffet said.
Moffet also questioned whether offering “single-stream” recycling, which is currently hauled to Summit County or Denver, actually makes the town more environmentally sustainable. The recycling facility at the Eagle County Landfill, near Wolcott, is “dual stream,” which relies on people separating their recyclables. County solid waste manager Ken Whitehead said that system puts cleaner, and ultimately more valuable, recycled material back into the market.
Calling the recycling issue “incredibly complex,” Moffet said the law as written wouldn’t meet the town’s objective.
Residents weigh in
Resident Gwen Scalpello told the council that she’s concerned about enforcement, particularly in condos, townhomes and hotels.
“It’s going to be very hard to get visitors to comply without having property managers turn into trash compliance officers,” Scalpello said.
Recycling methods vary from community to community, Scalpello said, making it difficult for visitors to come to Vail and know the system here. A quick look at the trash and recycling containers around tells much of the story, she said.
Fines for non-compliance also worried Scalpello.
“The idea we’re going to be fined because we can’t separate our trash troubles me,” she said.
But resident Marshal Turley urged the council to keep working on the regulations.
“We’ve seen recycling succeed in many places,” Turley said. “We can make this succeed, or we can make it fail.”
Turley urged the council to include a widespread education effort along with the new law, perhaps including a smartphone app.
“People won’t know unless we inform them,” he said.
When the ordinance comes back to the council March 18, it will include language about “hardships” and how to make recycling work in tight spaces. Other issues will include the prospect of color-coded bins for trash and recycling.