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Recycling needs more green

Matt Scherr
Vail CO, Colorado

Eli Desouza recently commented on the muddy conditions of the recycling site on Beaver Creek Blvd in Avon.

First, I want to clarify that our organization, the Eagle Valley Alliance, operates and maintains the site, not the Town of Avon. And Traer Creek is the landowner that generously contributed the land so we can use it for our recycling program.

Second, your suggestion to use gravel is an excellent one for addressing mud at the site. We lack one critical thing, however, to implement that solution: money. But on the brighter and cleaner side, we are working on changes to the drop-off program that will forever sweep the mud out from under your feet. I’ll use your exasperation at the mud at the site to give a brief rundown on the drop-off recycling program in the valley.

We have planned, since taking over these sites a year ago, to exchange the large and small “dumpsters” you now see for specialized recycling trailers that are easier to use. The trailers also make the program portable, more manageable and cleaner.

Trailers like these are used all over the country in grocery-store parking lots, public fairs and farmers markets. Because we could haul them ourselves whenever we want, we could prevent messy overflow and park them in more convenient and highly visible (and paved?) places.

Moving away from the “dumpster” look and placing the trailers in high-traffic and highly visible locations will also eliminate the messy abuse and misuse we clean up every day at the current sites. (We now have a staff of three working seven days a week trying to keep the sites orderly.)

Now to the reason you’re still wading across mud to a dumpster instead of across pavement to a pretty trailer: We have to be able to take that recyclable material somewhere (it currently goes to the hauler’s private facilities in Summit County and Grand Junction). Our plan was, and still is, to take the material to a new public facility in Summit County. That facility opened ” 10 months late ” in August 2006 and still cannot accept co-mingled containers. Our next closest option is Denver, just a wee too far. We may be able to bring material there, and thus convert to our trailer system, as early as May. We are hopeful but have many times this past year grown faint from holding our breath.

On an even more hopeful note, however, is Eagle County’s looming and likely decision to install its own facility at the landfill in Wolcott. The facility could be operational in a year and would vastly change the face of recycling in our community. Costs for all recycling programs would go down, and opportunity would expand ” schools would be able to easily and cheaply implement recycling programs; the towns of Eagle and Gypsum could finally offer curbside recycling if they chose; cost and control of our own collection program would be immensely improved.

And we are in serious need of improvement. The current system has a limited

capacity, as anyone who went by there around Christmas and New Year’s can attest; we were forced then to rent a moving truck to remove 9,000 pounds of overflowed cardboard from the sites.

Whew! The holidays, it seems, were good to our fellow citizens.

And our fellow citizens have in turn been good to us. Volumes for the whole drop-off program in 2006 increased 48 percent over 2005 ” this after seven consecutive years of declining volumes.

Because our costs go straight up when we recycle more, that additional 48 percent consumed funds we had for other purposes such as signs, informational brochures, outreach and the like.

The trailer system (even while we have to haul them to Summit County) is far cheaper, easier, cleaner and more effective than paying a hauler. The Alliance, more than anyone, is eager to make this change. We will shout to the mountaintops to let everyone know when it happens.

In the meantime, Eli, you or anyone else can help this effort best by freeing us up to work more toward this objective. How? Help us encourage people to be kind in using the sites. For example, explain to them that though a kayak is made of plastic and, technically, a container, it is not recyclable in our system; though wild game carcasses and the cooler in which one might keep said carcass are, in some ways, recyclable, they are not in our program; and yes, it is regrettable that car tires are so annoying and expensive to dispose of, but no, we would not care to pay to dispose of them for you.

In 2006 the Alliance hauled from our sites 32 tons of garbage, dozens of tires, dozens of appliances, car batteries, hazardous waste, human (yes, human) waste and, of course, several carcasses. We have seen the great support and participation in recycling from most of you in our community. And we have also seen the great disrespect and abuse of that support from a small, though frustratingly significant, minority.

We are, despite appearances sometimes, working very hard to bring efficient, effective and convenient recycling to our community. We hope, in the meantime, that you will encourage others to follow your lead in recycling properly.

Matt Scherr is the executive director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability.


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