Steamboat exploring more, easier recycling options through survey
As part of its ongoing commitment to sustainability and passing a climate action plan, the city of Steamboat Springs has contracted with a Denver-based company to assess recycling options in the city.
Deputy City Manager Tom Leeson said the city will send a survey to randomly selected residents asking what barriers they face with recycling, which materials are being recycled most and where recyclables are ultimately ending up.
“The first step is to really take a snapshot of the existing conditions and look at best practices, what are the hurdles, and what are the options for improving,” Leeson said. “That will ultimately result in some recommendations for the consultant and potentially some code changes down the road.”
Leeson said the city hopes to send the survey out in September and October and be done with the entire project within six months. LBA Associates, Inc., a company focused around helping rural, tourism-based organizations develop and operate sustainable waste diversion programs, is operating the study and will help the city decide if they need to change codes and ordinances around recycling.
Laurie Batchelder Adams, president of LBA Associates, said Colorado’s resort destinations share similar struggles when it comes to recycling: they are rural and far away from recycling hubs on the Front Range, see large fluctuations in population depending on tourist seasons and have small populations who often do not recycle in large quantities.
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“Forgetting the tourist population for a moment, the permanent generators who are there tend to not give us a lot of recyclables,” Batchelder Adams said. “When you throw in the ski areas and the tourism, it bumps up our economies but it’s really sporadic.”
Recycling hubs are also located on the Front Range and require several hours of driving to reach from the Western Slope. Though recycling cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions, Batchelder Adams said shipping materials and driving them to Denver can increase pollution on its own. Leeson said the study and subsequent ordinances will aim to address this issue and provide more options for Steamboat and Routt County.
“One of the ultimate goals will be to kind of revise our current code to increase diversion and increase accessibility to the recycling programs,” Leeson said. “The intent is to sort of understand the landscape of recycling in the community.”
In a report sent to the city, Batchelder Adams said the Yampa Valley has traditionally been committed to recycling and environmental sustainability. However, Batchelder Adams said there is still heavy work to be done. A graph Batchelder Adams compiled shows 50% of Routt County’s trash could have been recycled or composted in 2018.
“The reason recycling is a good thing to do is it conserves energy — less energy goes into recycling than goes into harvesting raw materials,” said Winn Cowman, waste diversion director at the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council. “It reduces air and water pollution, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions as opposed to land-filling and burning fossil fuels.”
Cowman said Routt County residents are feeling the direct impacts of climate change with warmer temperatures, a drier river and less snowfall. In addition to the recycling industry employing more people than the landfill industry, Cowman said recycling benefits a community by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and
“The wonderful thing about waste is that we all generate it,” Cowman said. “So it’s a very tangible thing that impacts everyone that we can do on a daily basis.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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