Vail’s recycling program making progress toward the town’s 2019 goal
May 17, 2018
VAIL — Vail has recorded a 22 percent combined community recycling rate, according to an annual update prepared by the town's Environmental Sustainability Office. The recycling rate is calculated as a percentage of the total amount of municipal solid waste collected within the town. Benchmark comparisons include a rate of 14.7 percent recorded for all of Eagle County in 2010. The national average is 34 percent.
Participation rates, as measured by the number of people who put both trash and recycling out in a given collection week, are showing improvement in Vail. This includes a 78 percent residential participation rate and a more than 94 percent participation rate for commercial and multi-family properties in 2017.
Prior to implementation of Vail's communitywide recycling ordinance in 2014, the town's baseline research indicated a residential recycling rate of 9 percent and a commercial recycling rate of 19 percent in 2010, according to Mark Hoblitzell, the town's environmental sustainability coordinator.
"While we're pleased with our progress thus far and we're continuing to work with businesses and other properties to help introduce them to the recycling process, we have a long way to go to achieve the community's waste-diversion goals," Hoblitzell said. "Our main priority has been to educate community members on recycling and the opportunities available."
The town's Environmental Sustainability Strategic Plan adopted in 2009 calls for reducing the amount of Vail's landfill contributions by 10 percent within five years (2014) and 25 percent within 10 years (2019). At 22 percent, the town is close to achieving its 10-year goal. While rates are improving year over year, it takes the entire community to achieve these goals. Hoblitzell encourages everyone to take a moment to be sure they are recycling properly. Resources are available at http://www.lovevail.org.
In addition to the 2014 recycling ordinance, additional steps have been taken to reduce the town's waste generation, Hoblitzell said. This includes the town's special event permitting requirements and zero-waste efforts including the Vail Farmers' Market, which has achieved an annual waste diversion rate of approximately 90 percent. Expansion of composting at municipal facilities, special events, and the 2015 plastic bag ordinance which has resulted in a 90 percent reduction in the distribution of single-use bags at town grocery stores have also contributed.
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Participation in town-managed collection events has also grown. In 2017, the town of Vail collected more than 16 tons of e-waste, paper shredding and household hazardous waste at the two annual collection events; this is up from 12 tons in 2016.
"The growth in popularity of the hard to recycle collection events has allowed the town to establish the fall America Recycles Day Collection event and provide the community a safe way to dispose of these items that should never end up in the landfill," Hoblitzell said.
The community recycling ordinance established a recycling requirement, embedded recycling rates and a variable pricing structure based on the size of trash carts. Additionally, annual data reporting and hauler registration requirements were included in the ordinance. Initially, the town offered rebates to residents and businesses to assist in the new infrastructure costs to facilitate recycling. A broad-based education program was launched under the "Love Vail" brand that helped bring recycling awareness to residents and guests. This ongoing campaign includes digital, broadcast and print media as well as free educational materials.