What's recyclable and what's not? I never know what to think. I heard that most recently the county is starting to take more plastics. Is that true?
- Drew, Frisco
I get this question all the time and I don't blame you for asking. It can be difficult to know what is recyclable. It's important to stay up to date, since the recycling guidelines change frequently.
Recyclable materials are commodities and like other commodities, pricing is driven by the demand for materials. The value of our soda cans, glass bottles and newspapers fluctuates with the market, influencing what we can recycle. This, along with facility capabilities and quantity of collected materials allow us to recycle many items in Summit County.
The exciting news is that the drop-off sites located in Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon and Summit Cove are now accepting #1 PETE clamshells (the "to-go" and fruit containers that open like a clam) and #1 PETE cups where only #1 PETE bottles were accepted in the past. This is very exhilarating for me and other avid recyclers like you because more of our waste can be diverted from the landfill. But it's up to get the word out, so pass along the info to your friends.
The drop sites are conveniently located, open 24 hours every day and are free! If you haven't been to the sites, stop by the sites and make sure you are recycling everything you can. The materials collected at these locations are transported to the Summit County Resource Allocation Park (SCRAP) in Keystone where they are sorted and shipped. If you have questions about recycling or locations, please call us at the High Country Conservation Center at (970) 668-5703 or visit
Residents living in single-family homes and duplexes don't need to use these great drop-off sites if they have curbside pickup. Very convenient! If your recycling is picked up at the curb, then you can put all of your recyclables in one bin. This type of recycling is called single-stream recycling. Single-stream recycling includes paper, aluminum, glass bottles, plastics #1-#7 and small amounts of cardboard. However, there are some important items that are not recyclable (including plastic bags, which can still be recycled at local grocery stores). That's why it's so important for residents to understand the recycling guidelines. When non-recyclable items are included in recycling bins, recycling companies either make less money on the materials or have to throw away entire batches because of the "contamination" of the recyclables.
Although all curbside recyclers offer single-stream collection, the exact recyclables allowed vary by company. Timberline Disposal and Talking Trash have one set of guidelines, and Waste Management has slightly different requirements. We have posted links to their websites at highcountryconservation.org to help you easily find this information.
If you are wondering why the recycling rules are different at the drop sites versus curbside collection, then read on. For folks like me who love the free recycling sites, we are helping Summit County's SCRAP maximize its revenue by keeping our materials separated. For instance, the SCRAP is paid a premium for brown glass that is melted in Denver and recycled into Coors' bottles. But at the curb, it would be almost impossible for residents and recycling haulers to have six different containers (which would mean six different compartments in the recycling trucks). And it's been proven that single-stream curbside recycling increases participation, so Summit County should soon see increased recycling rates.
Whether you drop your recycling off or have it collected curbside, it's critical to stay in the know when it comes to the ever-changing world of recycling. We are very fortunate in Summit County to have an incredible recycling program, thanks to the dedicated SCRAP staff and Summit County government, great recycling haulers and significant community support. We only have so much space for trash in this beautiful mountain environment, and I'd hate to see our landfill piled high with recyclables. So let's all do what we can and if you're not sure, please ask us! That reminds me that it's about time for me to take my recycling (now including #1 clamshells and cups!) down to the Frisco drop site.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at email@example.com.