City and county support continued exploration of a county-wide recycling drop site

Routt County Commissioners and Steamboat Springs City Council moved to support the continued exploration of a county-wide, multi-material recycle drop site facility. 

Scott Cowman, director of environmental health for the county, alongside partners LBA Associates Inc. and Kessler Consulting Inc., presented the findings of the drop site feasibility study to Routt County Commissioners at their Tuesday, May 9, meeting. This study was a partnership between the county and the city, which heard the same presentation that night at the Steamboat City Council work session.

After being presented the findings for a study that analyzed a city-wide approach and a county-wide approach, both groups showed more interest in the county-wide approach.

This proposed site the feasibility study looked into would be for recycling and compost. Dropping off traditional recycling at this proposed site would be free, but there would be a fee for those who drop off compost, hard-to-recycle material or household hazardous waste, according to Winnie DelliQuadri, special projects and intergovernmental services manager for Steamboat Springs. 

The study assumed that ownership and operations would both be public. For the county-wide approach, it was estimated that around 2,650 tons of material would be collected annually at the drop site. The study showed that this would up the landfill diversion rate to 23%.

Funding sources have not been identified, although it is anticipated that the project will receive some sort of Extended Producer Responsibility grant from the state. Site location has yet to be identified, but it is hoped to be in the general vicinity of Steamboat Springs. DelliQuadri told City Council members that the site should only require 2 acres of land.

A county-wide drop site that collects fully separated material is estimated to have a capital cost between $3.4 million and $3.8 million. A partially separated material site is estimated to cost $3.3 million to $3.6 million. 

The traditional recyclables that would be accepted at the drop site include: cardboard mixed paper, plastic No. 1 containers, plastic No. 2 containers, plastic No. 3-6 containers, plastic film, aluminum containers, steel and tin containers, and glass containers.

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The study considered two different collection strategies for recycling, one being a fully source-separated collection strategy that would include plastic No. 1 and No. 2 containers only; and a hybrid strategy that would include plastic No. 1-6 containers.

The hybrid strategy analyzed the collection of commingled fiber and commingled plastics, with all other materials source-separated. Analyzing both methods gave insight to those conducting the study on respective impact on operations costs and market revenues. 

Both Routt County Commissioners and Steamboat City Council had questions about whether a fully separated model would deter users as it would take more time to separate all of one’s recycling materials.

LBA Associates Inc. representatives said that they looked to make this as easy as possible, and methods that involve not separating recycling actually prove to be less effective in terms of collecting actual recyclable material.

The purpose of the study was to consider a multi-material drop site facility that would augment existing waste diversion programs and policies to further increase landfill diversion. The study has cost $12,000 to date and is an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the Routt County Climate Action Plan.

“We want to create a one-stop shopping opportunity for your residences and business,” a representative from LBA Associates Inc. said to county commissioners at their Tuesday meeting.

The study evaluated the management of four material streams: traditional recyclables, organics, hard-to-recycle materials and household hazardous waste. The study notes that the availability of accurate and complete data defining material quantities and existing programs is limited.

This study relied on data collections and assumptions developed by the city’s Recycling Study and the city and county Organics Recovery Study, both completed by the same partners as this study in 2022. It also used data regarding hard-to-recycle and household hazardous waste information provided by the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and Routt County staff.

Presenters identified gaps remaining in their existing recycling system and notified county commissioners on Tuesday that the landfill diversion rate was less than one-third through the Climate Action Plan goals to meet by 2030. Additionally, the continuation of the Depot or hard-to-recycle operation that is currently in place is not guaranteed. 

Presenters said county staff indicated there has been input from the public that they would like to see hazardous household waste collected more than once a year at special events.

Presenters noted that making this drop site a multi-material facility would increase cost-effectiveness and increase customers convenience and diversion. A fully separated recyclable drop site and partially separate recyclable drop site could require two different size facilities.

Routt County Commissioners and Steamboat City Council will meet Monday, May 15, for a joint meeting where they will share their take on the study. The concept is expected to be continually explored through the next two years and the drop site itself coming to fruition remains a few years out.

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