Vail aims to increase recycling, decrease trash |

Vail aims to increase recycling, decrease trash

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – A new study shows a “pay as you throw” program is feasible for Vail, and could increase recycling and decrease trash.

Right now, Vail has a “diversion rate,” the amount of trash it saves from going into the landfill, of 9 percent – about half the statewide average. If implemented, the new program hopes to increase that number by 10 percent in 2015 and 25 percent in 2025.

Those estimates might be a little tentative, said Matt Scherr, executive director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability.

“I think they are going to blow those goals out of the water,” Scherr said. “The pay-as-you-throw programs statistically increase your diversion rate by 25 percent in 1-2 years.”

Broken down, the “pay as you throw” program is what it sounds like. The more trash Vail residents throw away, the more they will pay for service. The proposed programs requires residents to buy special waste bags. The cost of bags includes the cost of trash collection.

Under the proposal, the bear-proof carts would still be used. Haulers would collect trash in much the same way as they do currently. Since it’s likely the infrastructure won’t change, a pay-as-you-throw program is more likely to succeed, Scherr said.

“The more you change, the more problems you have, especially at implementation time,” Scherr said. “(The proposed program) makes it change very little. Basically all you have to do is buy special bags. Keeping it as simple as possible is huge for any program.”

Residents may pay less

Recycling pickup would be included in the price of trash pickup, encouraging residents to recycle more and pay less for their trash. The program would require Vail to provide equal space for recycling and trash in new businesses and condos.

“There is a lot of room to improve,” Vail’s environmental health officer Kristen Bertuglia said. “There is a lot of opportunity to start fresh and do it right.”

Many residents could end up paying less for collection. A majority of residents said they would be on the minimum service level if a “pay as you throw” program was implemented, according to the study. Currently, 75 percent of household receive more service than they need, the study said.

Key findings

One possible challenge to a pay-as-you-throw program is Vail’s transient population. Not so, the study said. Other resort communities –such as Aspen – have recently implemented pay-as-you-throw programs with success.

Other factors could limit the program’s success, the study said. Recently purchased bear-resistant containers would limit flexibility in system changes should Vail decide to make residents buy new trash bins. Also, the current economy makes it hard for stores and restaurants to make expensive changes.

The Vail Town Council will discuss a “pay as you throw” system at its meeting on Tuesday.

Staff writer Ian Smith can be reached at 748-2928 or at

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