Eagle County recycling braces for another hit
December 17, 2013
WOLCOTT — Eagle County is anticipating a $100,000 blow to its budget for the recycling center at the landfill because it appears that Pitkin County will be closing its recycling transfer station, which sends its material to Eagle County.
The Eagle County recycling facility is the only one on the Western Slope. It's a dual-stream facility, meaning that it requires recyclables to be collected separately. Within the past year, more towns and trash haulers started switching to the more convenient single stream, in which recyclables are collected in one bin. As a result, more recyclables are being trucked to single-stream facilities on the Front Range, meaning a loss in revenue for Eagle County.
Earlier this year, Eagle County Director of Solid Waste and Recycling Ken Whitehead said the recycle center can withstand a 75 percent reduction of imported material. At the time, the county was considering spending between $2 million and $6 million to convert its facility to single stream. Whitehead recommended officials to keep the facility as it is.
"As it is now, our (recycle facility) is barely in the black — it's a break-even facility that is paid for by tipping fees at the landfill," he said. "That goes away if we switch. Our analysis yielded a $250,000 annual deficit if we go single stream."
Pitkin County represents about 20 percent of the material that goes to Eagle County, and Whitehead's outlook remains the same.
"The estimated $100,000 loss is a worst-case scenario," he told Eagle County commissioners Dec. 9. "MRI is one of the haulers in Pitkin, and the company is still bringing material to us, so it's unlikely we'll lose all of Pitkin's recyclables."
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Eagle County will stay the course with it's dual-stream facility, but commissioners agreed they want to send a letter to Pitkin expressing their "disappointment."
"While we appreciate the decision they are making, which appears to be for financial reasons, let's remind them that by going single-stream they are passing on the problem to other people," said commissioner Sara Fisher. "It breaks my heart to see those trucks driving through our county, bypassing our facility to go to Denver and increasing the carbon footprint."
Whitehead said the financial blow may be lessened if the recycle center is able to get by without rehiring a position that was recently vacated by a full-time employee, saving about $60,000 a year.
The conversation about the county's recycle center started in earnest last summer when the town of Vail looked into a recycling mandate to increase participation in recycling programs. Such an ordinance would likely result in a greater increase in the more-convenient single-stream recycling, even if it would mean diverting materials from the Eagle County facility. On Dec. 3, the town council continued in that direction by directing staff to draft an ordinance for the council to review in January.