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Greening up Vail will take work

Megan Mowbray

Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi said he wants the valley to be a leading community in recycling, and from what he understands, Eagle County is on its way.

Ask Eagle resident Alan Bryant, however, and he’ll tell you the county has a long way to go.

When Bryant asked the local landfill manager why people can’t recycle more items – such as certain kinds of plastic items, like yogurt containers – he was told it was because it would take too long to fill up one container to take down to Denver. While the number 1 and 2 plastics, like soda bottles and milk jugs, do make up 80 percent of the plastic we use, Bryant’ disagrees with the landfill’s response.

“I look at all that I can’t recycle, and I would love to call their bluff,” he said. “There is no way it would take months, maybe twice as long, but it would still fill up quickly.

“It’s just flat cardboard filling up the landfills,” Bryant added. “I know they are (recycling them) in Denver. There just has to be a better way.”

County officials hope they have come up with one. They recently gave the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, a local conservation advocacy group, control of the county’s recycling program.

Matt Scherr, executive director of the Alliance, has plenty of goals for the county’s recycling program. Meeting those goals will take a lot of work.

First off, Scherr hopes to add a few more recycling drop-off sites. Currently there are only seven recycling drop-off centers, essentially one for each community. The hope is that by making recycling more convenient, more Eagle Countians will recycle.

“The sites now are inefficient, too spread out around Vail,” Scherr said. “Summit has good fenced-in drop-off sites that accept more material and also give paybacks.”

With the new sites, the Alliance wants to accept more products, and have smaller, portable carriers.

Of course, none of this will work if residents don’t participate. Increasing public awareness of the recycling program is key, Scherr said.

Case-in-point: Some residents don’t need to haul their recycling to a drop-off center because they have curbside pick-up. They just don’t know about it.

“We want to promote curbside,” Scherr said. “A lot of people pay for it, and don’t even know they have it.”

Curbside is posing a problem for some areas “where the county government doesn’t have authority over the collectors and what is mandated in those towns, from my understanding,” said Menconi. In the future, Menconi also wants to see apartment complexes and commercial buildings begin to pick up the slack on recycling.

“The work ethic is here, we work hard to play hard,” Scherr said. “If someone provides a path, people will walk on it. And we want to provide that path.”

Even Wal-Mart has taken means to make recycling easier for the surrounding community. They offer recycling for their plastic bags.

“When dealing with the environment, it’s always a systematic approach,” Scherr said.

If Scherr and the Alliance fulfill their goal to help recycling in the valley, Eagle County just might live up to the commissioners’ expectations. One area where the Alliance has already succeeded is with recycling construction materials at RECON, located at the landfill. Items such as siding, tile, and used wood are being kept out of the landfill and are “being sold at a very discounted price,” Scherr said. “We are making money, too.”

That money will go to marketing the idea of recycling to schools and other areas around the valley.

“Matt is the non-profit eyes and ears for the county and local government,” Menconi said.

While Scherr is working on his goals, only time will tell how well the rest of the valley will take to becoming a little more “eco-friendly.”

When Bryant spoke with big companies like Kroger, who owns City Market, and Yoplait, they told him to talk with his local recycling company.

“There are a lot of ivory towers out there looking down, blaming somebody else,” Bryant said. “It may cost more (to recycle), but it’s better for the environment and that is really all that matters.” VT

Megan Mowbray can be reached for comment at vtintern@vailtrail.com.


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