Steamboat’s recycling ordinance passes again, despite trash hauler concerns

Owner of Twin Enviro expressed concern about the ordinance, suggesting that council scrap it in place of a pilot program

Les Liman, owner of Twin Enviro Services that operates the Milner Landfill, pictured here inspecting recycling in 2016.
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Steamboat Springs City Council approved the second reading of a mandatory commercial recycling ordinance on Tuesday, Feb. 14, despite trash hauler Twin Enviro expressing concerns about the new ordinance.

The second reading passed with the same 5-2 vote as the first reading on Feb. 7, with council members Heather Sloop and Michael Buccino opposing.

Despite concerns from five Twin Enviro employees, including owner Les Liman, that the process hasn’t included enough outreach and education, council members in support of the ordinance said they felt the 18-month rollout would act like a pilot program and allow problems to be addressed in the future if they arise.

“As we look at the implementation time and as we look at the waiver program that is written into this ordinance, we essentially have a pilot program here,” said council member Joella West. “We also have mandatory reporting requirements, so we roll this out and we see how it goes.”

The ordinance has incremental goals for haulers to offer recycling services for commercial businesses and multi-family residences. Goals require one-third of trash users to have recycling within six months, two-thirds within a year and everyone within 18 months.

Council added a provision last week that stripped any financial punishment for not following the ordinance for the first two years. The ordinance also includes a waiver process to get around the requirements if a business can’t accommodate, though that still needs to be fleshed out by council.

Trash haulers report that roughly 50% of their clients are already recycling, and some homeowners associations report higher numbers. Still, the city’s Special Projects and Intergovernmental Services Manager Winnie DelliQuadri said they don’t have great data to verify current recycling rates.

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During public comment, Liman suggested the city scrap the ordinance and replace it with a pilot program, potentially requiring recycling in certain areas of the city and seeing how things go. He said he has regrets with the city’s bear-proof trash can ordinance that he felt a pilot program could have helped avoid.

“I think that that project has been a disaster and it’s been very hard on our business and our customers,” Liman said. “Having a top-down solution for the size of the recycling container is a real overwhelming overstep on the part of the city.”

The ordinance requires businesses to have half the capacity for recycling that they have for trash. For example, if a business currently has a 6-yard container for trash, they need to have at least a 3-yard receptacle for recycling.

The additional receptacles have caused concern about both there being enough space for them and the ability for trucks to serve them, especially in downtown Steamboat where many alleys are already congested. The amount of snow this winter has compounded those concerns.

Sloop said she was also concerned that despite the long rollout, some businesses wouldn’t start recycling until they had to.

“Small businesses, like I stressed last week, are not going to do this until they have to, and then if we keep giving them waivers, they’re never going to do it,” Sloop said. “This doesn’t seem like the right fit.”

Instead, Sloop suggested a one-year trial period for those who want to recycle on their own, and then try a slower rollout after that, but she wasn’t comfortable with adding a mandate right now. Buccino also said he wasn’t comfortable with a mandate.

But the other council members said they felt there has been sufficient study and outreach on the ordinance and that now was the time to put it in place. When the ordinance first came up for a first reading in December, council opted to table it to February to allow DelliQuadri to do more public outreach.

DelliQuadri said the drafting of the ordinance also included outreach to trash haulers like Twin Enviro, and that comments they made led to changes in how it was written. Haulers were also at town halls about the ordinance in January, she said.

“There were no comments at that time,” DelliQuadri said.

She stressed that if there are problems with the ordinance, staff will bring it back to council to make adjustments.

“We don’t want to create a system of problems,” DelliQuadri said. “At the same time, there does need to be an impetus for people to begin this process.”

Council president Robin Crossan stuck with her position from last week, saying that she felt there was enough time to roll out the ordinance and that potential problems that arise can be addressed.

“I think we have time with all of the people in our community, (either) commercial or multi-family unit, to be able to figure this out,” Crossan said. “If (they) can do it, great. If not, we have people to help or we have a waiver process.”

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