Will Vail mandate recycling in 2014?
• What will a ban on plastic shopping bags look like?
• Will the town require “single stream” recycling, in which residents and businesses don’t have to separate their recyclables.
• Will curbside recycling bins have to be bear-resistant?
• Will the ordinance push past the town’s old goal of recycling 25 percent of all the town’s trash by 2019?
VAIL — After months of pondering, studying and surveying, Vail may actually have a mandatory recycling law on the books in the first half of 2014.
Kristen Bertuglia, the town of Vail’s environmental sustainability director, has led the past months’ efforts, and Tuesday reviewed a few points about what her research had revealed and asked Vail Town Council members for advice on what to do next.
The idea for a recycling ordinance has been a few years in the making, based in part on a town goal, set in 2009, to have the town’s businesses and residents recycling 25 percent of their trash by 2019.
That’s going to take some work. Bertuglia’s research shows that businesses in Vail Village and Lionshead currently recycle about 20 percent of their trash, with residential recycling lagging behind a bit. Throughout Eagle County, the amount of recycled materials is between 17 and 18 percent, Bertuglia said.
But even Vail’s goal for 2019 will leave the town significantly behind the national recycling rate of about 35 percent. That rate is even higher in the nation’s largest cities. That group is led by San Francisco, where businesses and residents recycle nearly 80 percent of all their trash.
Those cities all have mandatory recycling laws, Bertuglia said.
While an ordinance hasn’t yet been drafted, it will almost certainly address three main issues:
Banning plastic shopping bags: Aspen and Breckenridge in the past year have imposed either outright bans on plastic shopping bags or now charge shoppers who use them.
Plastic grocery bags are one of the biggest problems in the trash business. The bags themselves can’t be recycled and often slow down the combined human/mechanical recycling at the Eagle County Landfill. The challenge will be whether or not to ban all plastic bags, even those from upscale retail stores. Aspen has banned all plastic bags, even those from its tony downtown boutiques.
Two types of recycling
How to recycle: There are two main types of recycling — “single stream” and “dual stream.”
Single stream is easy to explain: All your recyclables go in one bin.
Dual stream is a little trickier because it actually deals with three kinds of recyclables — cardboard, paper and co-mingled glass and plastic. All those materials end up in separate bins.
The recycling facility at the county landfill is a dual stream, and county officials say they’re keeping that system. That means if Vail went to a single stream system, then recycled materials would have to be trucked out of the county, perhaps as far away as Denver.
Council member Jenn Bruno asked Bertuglia if the town’s goal for recycling shouldn’t be more ambitious. Bertuglia said members of a volunteer committee expressed the same opinions.
There’s also a question of just how big, and how strong, recycling bins can be. Council member Margaret Rogers said her bin was filled to overflowing after hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. Fellow council member Greg Moffet also asked that any potential ordinance include a requirement for bear-resistance.
“Now you have to put your trash in a bear-proof container, but not your recycling,” Moffet said.
After a brief presentation, Mayor Andy Daly suggested that it’s probably time to take another step toward creating a new town regulation. He asked Bertuglia to draft an ordinance and present it to the council in January. With that before the council, Daly said the council could both learn more about the issues and present something concrete to residents and business owners.
With all that information in hand, Daly said he hoped the town could have a new regulation in place by April or May.