Steamboat Council approves mandatory commercial recycling ordinance with one tweak
Steamboat Springs City Council approved the first reading of the city’s proposed mandatory commercial recycling ordinance in a divided vote Tuesday, Feb. 7, after a slight adjustment.
If council passes the second reading of the ordinance, all commercial businesses and multi-family residences will be required to offer recycling.
“When I first moved here seven years ago, I thought this was already a thing,” said council member Dakotah McGinlay. “Let’s try to find a way to pass this ordinance this evening and get our community’s diversion rate in the right direction.”
McGinlay proposed council adjust the ordinance to remove any penalties for not complying in the first two years, to ease any concerns of fellow council members. That change was adopted and the ordinance passed 5-2 with council members Heather Sloop and Michael Buccino opposed. The ordinance comes after 94% of surveyed residents told the city they wanted to see more recycling options.
In comments just before the vote, Council President Robin Crossan said she had walked into the meeting expecting to vote against the ordinance, but changed her mind during the discussion.
“We have 18 months, and we have an employee that can do her magic, and we have an exception and we have waivers,” Crossan said. “The sooner people get on board, we will have the ability to see who can actually do this and who can’t.”
As written, the new recycling requirements will roll out over the next 18 months, with incremental goals for haulers to offer recycling. Recycling is already mandatory for single-family residences and duplexes.
The first goal is that 33% of trash users receive recycling service within six months, a goal that the city’s Special Projects and Intergovernmental Services Manager Winnie DelliQuadri said is already happening. Haulers need to offer recycling to 66% of customers within a year, and everyone by the end of the 18-month rollout.
“Roughly 50% of the customers already have it, so really the first six months and half of the second six months are working with people who already have recycling to do more education and outreach,” DelliQuadri said.
The ordinance also includes a waiver process for businesses to avoid the new requirement if they don’t have space for recycling or the ordinance will cause some other hardship on their business. DelliQuadri said that waiver process is still in the works and would need to be approved by council later.
Sloop said she voted against the ordinance for two reasons. First, she questioned the ordinance’s requirement for businesses and multi-family complexes to offer half the capacity for recycling that they offer for trash service. Sloop said she felt some — largely industrial businesses on the west side of town — wouldn’t use this capacity and that the mandate would only lead to added costs.
Second, Sloop noted that businesses are already having trouble with finding space to store snow this winter, and she was certain they would struggle to find space for a separate recycling dumpster.
“I don’t think this is ready for primetime, I think there is way too many holes in this,” Sloop said. “Every time I talk to restaurateurs they say please don’t do this to us.”
Buccino said he was uncomfortable with the mandate that the ordinance puts on businesses. Instead, he lobbied for council to vote against the ordinance and see what progress, in terms of diversion rate, the city’s recycling coordinator could make. He also suggested the city invest in a centralized recycling facility that residents and businesses could access for free.
In response to Buccino’s suggestion, Council Member Joella West noted that recycling is already required for many residences. Stripping the new ordinance of the mandate wouldn’t significantly increase the amount of trash diverted from landfills, she added.
“Who are the non-recyclers at this point?” West asked, before answering her question. “My guess is that there is a reason they don’t recycle and what you’re proposing is not going to suddenly cause them to see the light and come forward with their cardboard.”
Council will need to pass the ordinance on second reading before it goes into effect, though the second reading hasn’t been scheduled yet. The rollout of the new requirements is expected to start next month.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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