City to pursue half of recycling study’s recommendations
Business, multi-family recycling requirement could affect some 1,050 entities
After the completion of the City of Steamboat Springs Recycling Study in January, Steamboat Springs City Council directed staff to follow up on about half of the study’s recommendations.
Recommendations moving forward include tightening regulations for waste hauler reporting, adding a requirement for commercial recycling, completing a feasibility study for a community drop-off recycling center, and engaging in comprehensive public education and outreach.
“I would have liked to have seen all of the proposed strategies that were set forth by the recycling study be adopted, but the ones that did are a great next step to increasing our recycling, decreasing contamination and increasing public confidence that what we are putting in our recycling bins is actually being recycled,” city council member Gail Garey said this week.
The waste hauler reporting ordinance will be part of the council’s agendas in May for first and second readings, said Winnie DelliQuadri, Steamboat’s manager of special projects and intergovernmental services. None of the haulers licensed to operate in the city have submitted weight data for the last several years, the study reported.
The recycling study recommended expanding the existing city code to require quarterly reporting of quantity and contamination information from haulers in order to provide a more accurate tracking of participation, material quality and landfill diversion.
The increased reporting, which will be enforced by the city, is not expected to raise customer costs or significantly impact hauler operations, according to the recycling study completed by LBA Associates and Kessler Consulting.
Perhaps the most significant recommendation now moving forward is a requirement for recycling at businesses and multi-family housing in Steamboat that would affect an estimated 1,050 entities. DelliQuadri said the commercial ordinance has not yet been drafted due to staff capacity issues. Garey said she hopes the ordinance will be approved this summer.
“It’s a big task in terms of its implementation, but it also has the opportunity to increase our recycling rates,” Garey noted.
The council member and longtime environmental volunteer said businesses with tighter physical spaces for waste containers may need to collaborate to share recycling containers, but she noted that is already happening with businesses sharing trash dumpsters. Garey hopes that combined community education efforts will keep contamination in check in commercial recycling bins.
As the recycling industry progresses and changes, guidelines for recycling also evolve, according to Winn Cowman, waste diversion director for nonprofit Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.
For example, with all three haulers in Routt County, container lids that are made of the same type of material, such a plastic lid on a plastic bottle, should be left on the bottle after the liquid or food contents are fully drained. Lids that are a different material than the container, such as a metal lid on a glass bottle, should be removed before recycling so that each distinct material, the metal lid and glass bottle, can be recycled.
Changes in recycling guidance are driven by the technology and systems utilized at each unique recycling facility, Cowman said.
“Education is going to be a continuing component and is key to increasing our recycling rates and decreasing decontamination,” Garey explained.
The recycling study recommended requiring haulers to provide recycling service “equal to at least 50% of customer trash service” for both commercial and multi-family housing units.
DelliQuadri pointed out in a Feb. 1 memo to city council that a 2020 Community Survey indicated that 94% of respondents support expanding on-site recycling opportunities for apartments and condos. Hauler observations showed about 50% of the multi-family units with curbside trash service do not have access to single-stream recycling on-site.
City council also approved study of the feasibility for a local recycling drop-off center, which would be a joint project with the county. Routt County Environmental Health Director Scott Cowman is tasked with moving that project forward.
Regarding the direction for comprehensive public education, DelliQuadri noted, “We worked on education and outreach in conjunction with the launch of the Recycling Depot (for hard-to-recycle items) and are working on coming up with a more comprehensive plan that would complement other efforts.”
The study noted, “More than any other recommendation, education and outreach efforts support the need for dedicated financial resources from the city and partners to ensure robust education and outreach to haulers and recyclers alike.”
In the meantime, waste diversion leaders at nonprofit Yampa Valley Sustainability Council created an updated education flyer titled “What goes in curbside recycling?” that illustrates the nexus between the three recycling haulers that serve Routt County.
According to YVSC research, all of the providers currently accept glass, mixed paper, cardboard, newspapers, magazines, mail, paper board, #1 and #2 plastics including milk jugs and aluminum, steel, and tin cans.
In addition, SRC Recycle and Refuse as well as Waste Management accept #3 through #7 plastics for recycling, while Twin Enviro Services does not accept those additional plastics.
Steamboat’s study also noted, “Curbside collection of commingled recyclables, including glass, remains generally sound given existing market conditions and impacts on public participation.”
Other recommendations from the city’s recycling study, which is posted online at steamboatsprings.net/recycling, that are not currently moving forward include: required recycling at city-permitted special events, residential volume-based service known as pay-as-you-throw, and an equal recycling space policy as part of the city’s development code.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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