‘Waste was a bad word’
EAGLE COUNTY – Matt Scherr calls himself an environmentalist and an advocate for recycling. But he makes it clear that doesn’t mean he’s a tree-hugger or simply a go-green guy.”I’m an environmentalist in the sense of what all people used to be,” says Scherr, president and executive director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability. “Years ago, waste was a bad thing; waste was a bad word. Now it’s just the technical term for all the excess stuff we produce.”The alliance is a nonprofit that wants to take over the management of the county-wide recycling centers. “I believe recycling is more than just a commitment to ‘green,'” says Scherr. “It’s a visceral, communitywide thing. It’s the beginning of getting back to how we did things 80 years ago when we didn’t have these waste problems. “We are finding out that grandma and grandpa were right – waste is bad,” he says. Managing the county’s drop-off sites, however, is just a jumping off point for the alliance, says Scherr. He thinks the social climate is right to address the future of recycling all over the county, he says.”I see people getting really frustrated with the state of recycling here,” says Scherr.
‘It’s a hassle’The alliance’s proposal is a simple one, says Scherr. They want to take over a $200,000-per-year contract Eagle County has with Waste Management, Inc., to manage the valley’s seven recycling drop-off centers. The plan is to make them cleaner and safer. Those would be welcome improvements for Eagle resident, Bill McEwen, who says the Eagle recycling bin is often a mess.”It’s terrible. It’s unbelievable how bad it is,” says McEwen. “It’s a hassle. People leave appliances, tires, bags of garbage, you name it.”The county has agreed to give the $200,000, which comes from a dumping charge at the landfill, to Scherr and the alliance. He is also looking for smaller contributions from towns in order to make their first year a success.”We don’t want to take it over and fail in the first year,” he says. “If we do this and do a good job at it, then next year we can go back and ask if more funds are available.”Part of the alliance’s plan is to drop two sites – in Minturn and Red Cliff – to streamline their hauling schedules, says Scherr. Eagle mayor Jon Stavney says he’s concerned about the $5,000 the alliance is requesting from the town of Eagle. He says he and town staff don’t see any added value in the alliance’s service.”We are unconvinced that the alliance will increase use, which is the real goal,” says Stavney.
Scherr says the alliance wants to move the Eagle recycling area to a more convenient and manageable location.Crunching the numbers”The economics of recycling are the economics of transportation,” says Scherr. It’s not the recycling that costs a lot of money, what it costs to drive the stuff to mills in Denver or Grand Junction.That logistical problem could be remedied by a new recycling facility opening in Summit County. While the facility isn’t a mill, recyclable material can be sorted there. If the alliance takes over recycling, Scherr says, more material will be recycled and therefore, kept out of the county landfill. Colorado ranks 46th out of 50 in recycling rates nationwide. It’s the ‘what more do you want’ question that has Scherr asking towns for more money, Scherr says.”If they want more, then that (money) is our (way) to start an organization that can address curbside recycling, event recycling, composting, and job-site-construction recycling,” Scherr says. “The sky’s the limit.” Curbside recycling, which requires additional vehicles and staff, rarely makes a profit, Scherr says. But most people interviewed at the Eagle recycling center said they would gladly pay for it.
“It would be nice if they could do curbside,” said Matt Hayden, who moved to Eagle one month ago. “But if this is what we have to do to recycle, we will do it.”Another Eagle resident, Jo Ann Riggle, has some experience with recycling in the valley and sees curbside pick up from a different perspective. “There isn’t a dense enough population to get enough volume to make any money,” said Riggle, who worked with Maury Nottingham for six years on the first recycling initiative in Eagle County called ‘We Recycle.’ “Everyone is too spread out here.”Riggle has a compost pit in her yard, and makes about five trips a year down from her home on Brush Creek to empty their recyclable material, she says.”It’s no problem,” she said.==========================================Recycling by the numbers$200,000 – Amount Eagle County pays Waste Management, Inc. to manage recycling centers$15,000 – Amount the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability has requested from towns of Vail and Avon
$5,000 – Amount requested from Eagle$2,000 – Amount requested from Gypsum$300 – Cost each time bin is picked up and emptied46 – Colorado’s rank out of 50 for diverting trash from state-wide landfills7 – number of recycle bins in the county 3 – average times per week each bin is emptied==========================================Vail, Colorado