Coax, not coerce, recycling |

Coax, not coerce, recycling

Debbie Buckley
Vail CO, Colorado

Matt Zalaznick posed a couple of questions that got my attention in his recent editorial about recycling.

“Would a curbside recycling tax be reasonable? Or should government force trash haulers to cut into their huge profits and provide the service?”

I am proposing a third alternative that is a carrot as opposed to a stick. The government’s role, locally, needs to focus more on cooperative efforts with private businesses and residents and less on mandates. Incentives, not penalties, should be offered to those who are doing their part for our environment. Incentives that save both time and money will help people change their habits.

The free clean-up punch pass at our landfill is a great idea, but I have not talked to many people who are aware of this program. The punch pass program allows residential customers to access the landfill to dispose of 1,600 pounds of trash and four tires free of charge once a year. Before this program the landfill had one “free day” a year but now the free day can be at your convenience, not the landfill’s convenience. This program should be publicized more.

Disposing of batteries is still difficult and expensive. Another incentive that should be used to encourage people to do the right thing is an annual “free battery day.” The county could set up a convenient drop-off sites for used batteries, where batteries dropped off on that day would be disposed of by the county. It has to be easier for people, in order to be effective.

I don’t think that there are a significant number of people in Eagle County against recycling, but there are some that may not want to spend the time and money. Recycling needs to be easier for Eagle County residents. It has to be curbside to work effectively for residents. It has to be economical to work effectively for businesses and residents.

I called two of the county’s waste disposal companies to learn more about what is currently available. Both offer curbside recycling as a service to their residential customers, with a one-time setup fee that includes the recycling containers.

More residential curbside recycling will also help alleviate some of the mess at the recycling dumpsters. I used to take my recycling to the Avon recycling area until I found out how easy curbside recycling is through my waste disposal company.

One of the companies contacted estimated that 75 percent of their residential customers use curbside recycling. What prevents people from recycling when it is available? As a community, we need to hear the answer to that question from people who are not recycling.

Listening to those people will provide more solutions to our recycling issue.

According to the Earth911 Web site:

The EPA estimates that 75 percent of what Americans throw in the trash could actually be recycled. Currently, only 25 percent is. Recycling 35 percent of our trash reduces global warming emissions equivalent to taking 36 million cars of the road. Every Sunday 500,000 trees could be saved if everyone recycled their newspapers.

Our trash problems won’t go away unless we all take some responsibility for solving them. The media and groups like Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability should continue to educate people about the value of recycling. If an aggressive awareness campaign on the value of recycling is used, in conjunction with incentives, our community spirit will prevail and the environment will win without mandates and taxes.

Debbie Buckley is an Avon resident. E-mail comments about this column to

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