Community Ag Alliance: The value of waste diversion in Routt County
In 2016, Colorado’s waste diversion rate was only 19 percent—well below the national average of 35 percent. To increase Colorado’s waste diversion rate closer to the national average, the Colorado Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission approved statewide waste diversion goals to increase the amount of waste diverted from landfills by recycling and composting during the next 20 years.
In preparation for these newly adopted goals, Routt County Department of Environmental Health requested Yampa Valley Sustainability Council prepare a report to examine the importance of waste diversion in Routt County, as it relates to the broader regional and statewide landscape, as well as research successful waste diversion programs, to better understand how the challenges of rural recycling can be overcome.
Waste diversion is defined as the sum of recycled, composted and donated or reused materials. Like many rural communities in Colorado, Routt County struggles with low waste diversion rates and lacks well-developed recycling and composting programs. Lower volumes, higher costs to haul materials long distances and cheaper landfill fees challenge the economic viability of rural waste diversion programs.
Despite these challenges, increased diversion is possible and several Western mountain resort and rural communities provide good models for sustainable recycling and composting programs.
Waste diversion is valuable to our community. As outlined in Vision 2020 and Vision 2030, our community views preservation of natural resources as an integral piece of our character and believes that waste diversion is one of the fundamental pieces.
In addition, our local economy is dependent on jobs and tax dollars associated with nature-based/outdoor activity tourism. Visitor experience is enhanced by local efforts to preserve and protect the environment, consistent with other resort communities. The preservation and enhancement of the environment and our image as stewards is critical to local economic stability.
Waste diversion is not only a community value, but it is also necessary to comply with current and future state plans, goals and laws. It is also one of the simplest actions that our community can take to address climate change.
YVSC’s report provides suggestions on how Routt County can move forward to increase waste diversion: developing local policies and improving infrastructure to support waste diversion; creating strong partnerships to build stable and predictable regional waste diversion programs and developing long-term strategic plans to meet statewide diversion goals.
Waste diversion is a key piece of an economically sustainable community, especially one that thrives on outdoor tourism. Cultural heritage, resort guest expectations, state mandates and climate action all demand we prioritize best practices in waste diversion.
With strong government leadership and local collaboration, Routt County can model successful waste diversion programs for other rural communities, putting our community in a unique position to both protect and promote our natural resources in an economically feasible way.
YVSC invites the community to review the report at yvsc.org/wastediversionreport and provide us with your feedback. In early 2018, YVSC will be working with Routt County to develop and facilitate a waste diversion strategic planning committee. Interested community members are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and get involved.
Sarah Jones is a member of the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.
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