EAGLE — Both Vail and Eagle County are questioning whether to stick with the county’s dual-stream materials recovery facility or switch to single-stream recycling.
Dual-stream recycling means that a customer has to differentiate between two bins of materials, such as bottles going with bottles and paper going with paper. The result is that the materials are cleaner, more likely to actually be recycled and they fetch higher prices on the market. On the other hand, a single-stream operation is more convenient because a customer puts all recyclables into one bin.
Vail is crafting an ordinance to make the town more environmentally friendly.
“We would like to have an ordinance by September with a six-month period to phase it in,” said Vail Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Kristen Bertuglia.
One aspect of the ordinance might make recycling mandatory. Either way, the town definitely wants to increase the amount of material going into the recycling bin — or bins.
If Vail makes recycling mandatory, then there’s a good chance it will switch to single-stream recycling to make it more customer friendly. That would result in material being hauled to facilities on the Front Range instead of Eagle County’s dual-stream materials recovery facility, which means a loss in revenue for the county.
“Vail represents about 5 percent of the total tons of recyclables that come to the (materials recovery facility),” said Eagle County Director of Solid Waste and Recycling Ken Whitehead. “Vail Town Council asked their staff to work with Eagle County staff to see if there is a solution that works well for both entities.”
Bertuglia met with commissioners and staff on Tuesday.
“The recycling is only a very small piece of the ordinance but we don’t want to alienate a community,” Bertuglia said.
Bertuglia said Vail staff members are planning a field trip to see Boulder County’s single-stream materials recovery facility and invited Whitehead to join them.
The Vail Town Council plans to discuss the dual/single-stream topic at its meeting July 2.
“It will just be a discussion, there is no decision being made then,” Bertuglia said.
For now, Whitehead’s recommendation to commissioners is to stick with the dual-stream facility.
“Right now, our (materials recovery facility) is a break-even facility,” he said. “It will cost about $3 million to convert it to single stream. That, combined with a projected 20 percent decrease in revenue due to contaminated materials, which don’t sell for as high a price, would result in an annual deficit of approximately $240,000.”
If the county does convert to single stream, Bertuglia indicated that Vail would consider sharing that cost.
“Once you switch to single stream, it’s almost impossible to go back,” Whitehead said. “Right now we’re a break-even facility and we can wait and have the option to switch later. If Vail converts, the silver lining is that it will be a good test case.”