Routt County recycling rate at 13 percent, consultant says
Steamboat Springs — Routt County residents were given a glimpse of their report card when it comes to recycling, and some think there is room for improvement.
During a public meeting Wednesday night at Colorado Mountain College, the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council presented the results of a recycling study.
Today, it is not as easy for some residents to recycle in Steamboat Springs. While many have access to curbside recycling, others had to haul their recycling to the Green Machine dumpsters, which were a free service offered to residents. The Green Machines went away late this summer because of increased demand and costs to haulers. The dumpsters also were creating an eyesore because they would overflow, and people would leave their recyclables on the ground.
“The demand for recycling is going up,” Sustainability Council Executive Director Sarah Jones said.
The Sustainability Council knew it needed to collect some data on recycling and see what the community’s needs are.
Laurie Batchelder Adams, with LBA Associates, did the recycling study, which was paid for by using grant money. She avoided traveling on treacherous roads and attended the meeting by video conference.
Batchelder Adams found that currently, residents and businesses in Routt County are recycling 13 percent of their waste in weight, and 11 percent is being composted, mostly in the form of yard waste. “The bad news is three-quarters is still being buried in a hole in the ground and covered with waste,” Batchelder Adams said.
She said that by 2025, Routt County has the potential to send only 32 percent of its waste to the landfill.
“It’s somewhat of a goal,” Batchelder Adams said.
Recycling in Routt County is going good compared to Colorado’s statewide numbers, where less than 20 percent of the municipal waste stream was recycled or composted in 2009. But Colorado is not doing well compared to the rest of the United States, where Americans on average recycle 34 percent of their waste.
Batchelder Adams said Routt County faces challenges when it comes to recycling. We do not live in a dense area, and we produce a relatively low number of tons of recycling.
“Getting more tons is the name of the game,” Batchelder Adams said. “If the money doesn’t work, the programs won’t last.”
She said that Colorado as a state faces challenges when it comes to recycling. The state does not have a strong market for the materials, and most of Colorado’s recycling, especially paper, is shipped out of state.
“Every time we ship 1,000 miles, we’re burning fossil fuels and creating greenhouse gases,” Batchelder Adams said.
In addition to developing more policies and rules that govern recycling in the area, Batchelder Adams said it would be important to expand education and secure funding that could help pay for a community recycling center. She also suggested Routt County be part of a regional group tasked with managing its recycling. She mentioned Craig, Meeker and Walden as possible partners.
“Let’s talk about regionality,” Batchelder Adams said. “Let’s partner up and see if we cannot increase our economies of scale.”
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