Vail Valley recycling drops too often have unrecyclable things in the bins
A couch was recently found in one of the big bins in Avon
EAGLE COUNTY — Cyndi Kirkland takes her household recycling materials to the center just east of the Home Depot store in Avon. She often sees stuff that shouldn’t be here, but one item set her off: A couch.
Kirkland took a photo, and there it is, among newspapers, carboard and bags of cans. You have to look, because it’s pretty well buried, but there’s a couch.
“Nobody seems to respect the recycling places,” Kirkland said. “But this is so blatant … that’s what did me in.”
A sofa is on the extreme side on the list of things that shouldn’t be in recycling bins big and small, but those un-recyclable items are a source of constant trouble for those who handle the material. And that constant trouble means more time, manpower and costs for everyone handling it. That includes local taxpayers.
Vail Honeywagon handles most of the recycling in the valley, under contract to local governments.
Customer service representative Lori Adam said couches aren’t the only big items put into the large bins. Truck drivers will find mattresses, box springs, refrigerators and other items in the bins.
In those situations, those driving the recycling trucks have to call in another truck and driver to pick up those items.
If the recycling dumpster is at an apartment or condo complex, the owner of the dumpster can be charged for the removal costs. People caught dumping can be charged for those costs, too.
Picking out the trash
All those un-recyclable items end up at the Eagle County Landfill north of Wolcott. There, Eagle County Solid Waste and Recycling Manager Jesse Masten said stuff that shouldn’t be in the recycling stream is a constant problem.
The Materials Recycling Facility at the landfill uses a lot of hand labor, as people separate recyclables into different categories. A lot of that material is simply trash.
Matsen said about 10% of the material that enters the facility can’t be recycled. And that’s just the stuff that makes into the sorting stream.
On the way to the landfill people at drop sites clean out non-recyclable items every day. Items include refrigerators — which have to be drained of coolant before disposal — old TVs and, sometimes, simple household trash.
Matsen said people who dump trash at recycling drop sites at least aren’t dumping stuff in ditches and gullies.
“But we try to make it easy to do the right thing,” Matsen added.
A second life
There’s a re-use area at the landfill. After crossing the scale and paying, gently-used items can be put into a collection. Matsen said items dropped off there have included skis, functional barbecue grills, furniture and more.
“That couch could have been brought up and handled correctly,” Matsen said.
The county also makes it easy to bring stuff to the landfill. There’s a punch pass program that allows county residents every year to dispose of 1,600 pounds of waste and four tires at no charge.
Residents have to present two forms of identification — usually a driver’s license and utility bill with matching names and physical addresses — to get the card.
Residents also get a break on disposing of old electronics. People are charged 20 cents per pound to get rid of those items. But, Matsen said, the county’s cost for disposing of those items is about 40 cents per pound.
So please, don’t leave your trash in the recycling bins.