Recycling won’t repay Eagle County for a while |

Recycling won’t repay Eagle County for a while

Melanie Wong
Eagle County CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” It will take more than 13,800 tons of soda bottles, milk jugs and yogurt cartons to pay off Eagle County, Colorado’s new $5.8 million recycling facility in Wolcott.

“It’ll take a lot of years to pay back the capital investment,” said Recycling and Solid Waste Manager Ron Rasnic of the planned facility. “But depending on costs it could pay for its own operation in three years or so.”

The facility, which county officials hope will be built and running by next fall, will cost roughly $350,000 per year to operate, not including the three or so employees that will work there.

With the facility, the county will be able to sort and bale the county’s recyclables, and receive much more money for the materials.

The county spends about $10 a ton now to collect and ship out its unsorted recycling.

“That doesn’t even pay the transport costs,” Rasnic said.

The materials are worth much more when sorted” plastics sell for about $360 to $480 per ton and newspapers and cardboard get $75 to $100 per ton, for example.

At that point, buyers would come pick up the baled materials, so the county would not have to drive the materials to Silverthorne, Grand Junction or Denver like it does now.

People don’t recycle for the profits, Rasnic admitted, and he doesn’t expect this facility to bring in big profits beyond paying for itself.

“It all depends on the market,” he said. “In the last month or so with the economy the way it is, we’ve noticed commodity prices will have dropped some.”

Still, the new facility will save the county on transportation costs, said Matt Scherr, executive director of the Eagle Valley Alliance, which runs the recycling drop-off sites around the county.

The county gives the Alliance about $250,000 per year to transport about 1,865 tons of materials to facilities around the state.

The transport costs about $80 per ton of comingled materials, which consists of glass, plastics and aluminum, Scherr said, but those costs can be even lower if materials are compressed, baled into squares and sorted.

Right now the process can be very costly, especially for the private companies such as Vail Honeywagon, which does curbside pickup. The company has to sort those materials by hand, Scherr said.

“Their recycling operation is probably a net loser, but they do it anyway,” he said.

Waste Management also picks up recycling. Both of those companies would be able to bring their materials to the Wolcott facility, saving on transporting and sorting costs, Rasnic said.

The hope is that the new facility will be able to process a larger volume of recyclables, and that Eagle and Gypsum, who currently do not have a curbside recycling service, will join in, Scherr said.

“They have nowhere to go if they collect it,” he said. “Now they can look at adding curbside service. There’s a great demand for it in those towns.”

The county may have to re-evaluate spending the nearly $6 million on the facility in light of the economic downturn, Commissioner Peter Runyon said.

Commissioners approved the new facility earlier this summer.

The county wanted to build the facility to lead the way in environmental responsibility, he said.

“We make our entire economy here work around the natural environment,” Runyon said. “As such, we should be a leader in the county and in the state in being environmentally responsible.”

The commissioners will take another look at the numbers before making the final spending decisions, he said.

“A year ago when we were talking about the first phase of this, the economy looked very strong, and we weren’t particularly anticipating what’s happened,” Runyon said. “Now we need to look at the hard dollars very seriously.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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