Letter: Why is recycling everyday materials so hard in Steamboat Springs?

As a first-time visitor to Steamboat Springs, I am absolutely delighted by the beauty of the area and the kindness of its people.

I am surprised, however, at the difficulty I encountered in getting rid of my garbage, more specifically, the potential recyclables.

Having stayed in town for several days, I had gathered some waste. As I am used to doing, I had separated the cans, the glass, the plastics, the paper and cartons. I took them over to the shopping area, expecting to finds ways to discard of the various materials. As I could not find such facilities, I started asking around.

Natural Grocers seemed like a good place to enquire, as they seem more environmentally aware than most. A friendly employee explained that residents can choose to subscribe to a recyclable-pickup program for about $180. That would not help me, being a visitor. He also suggested that I write a letter to the local newspaper.

I searched the internet and found several potential solutions, including a waste management facility on the east side of town and a PDF listing various addresses to drop off specific materials. At the waste management facility, a friendly worker explained that if I were a resident, I could leave the recyclables at a cost of $14. Being from out of town, it was free. Hurray! I was happy — but still surprised that all the cans, glass and plastics went into the same recycle bin.

I continued my research. I visited City Market, as it was mentioned on the PDF as a recycle-point for aluminum cans. Nope, not so. Plastic bags were collected, however. Walmart also had a bin for plastic bags — but no hard plastics, such as juice and milk jugs, of which there are so many.

The whole thing got to me. How is it possible that such a nice town makes it so hard to recycle? Surely not everyone has enough money to pay for the recycling service, meaning this system segregates the rich from the poor? Is recycling not something that one would want to encourage everybody to do, regardless of their social or financial situation? And, if so, what kind of system would encourage that behavior? Could this become a meaningful research topic for college students? Recycling is one thing; up-cycling is another, which could become a whole new industry very fitting to this beautiful environment.

Marianne van Arkel

The Netherlands

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