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A modified focus on plastics will help Summit County’s recycling programs stay strong

By Andy Stonehouse
Sponsored by High Country Conservation
Plastic bottles, jugs and tubs are accepted in single stream recycling in Summit County. High Country Conservation Center/Arthur Balluff
Plastic bottles, jugs and tubs are accepted in single stream recycling in Summit County. High Country Conservation Center/Arthur Balluff

By now, it seems like almost everyone in Summit County is on board with the notion of recycling. We live in a beautiful place, and to help preserve that, as well as cut down on waste, taking part in local single-stream or drop-off recycling efforts is a great way to help.

But while we might think that practically any product can be recycled, especially in our convenient single-stream pickups at home or at the office, the rules occasionally change, especially for plastic products. High Country Conservation Center (HC3), Summit County’s community environmental organization, hopes to encourage even better local recycling efforts by noting a couple of recent modifications to guidelines for single stream services.

Keep glass and cartons – such as milk, juice or soup cartons – out of the single stream bin. However, those materials can still be dropped off at Summit County’s three free recycling centers.



Plastic bags, take-out food containers, plastic packaging and paper cups are also a no-go for your single stream recycling pickup. Aluminum and tin cans, as well as paper and cardboard products are still welcomed in your single stream bin.

Rachel Zerowin, community programs director with HC3, said that when thinking about what plastics to include in your single stream recycling, focus on shape: bottles, jugs and tubs. Those containers are accepted in single stream.



“When we follow the rules, our recycling lives its next best life,” she said. “But simply hoping that something will be recycled and throwing it in the single stream bin undermines everyone else’s hard work.”

“Plastic bottles become fleece, carpet, more bottles, shoes, clothing, and more,” she said. “Plastic jugs like liquid detergent bottles and milk jugs become more jugs, pens, benches, and picnic tables. Yogurt tubs become brooms, brushes, rakes, trays and ice scrapers.”

While you may only associate single stream recycling with the 64-gallon rolling tote in your garage, Zerowin said single stream also includes large Dumpster-styled containers from shared condominium collection, restaurants and other businesses. That means lots of volume, and lots of opportunities for the wrong materials to mess up a large load.

Summit County’s various waste service companies currently collect single stream recyclables locally and then transport them to the materials recovery facility near Keystone. Those recycled goods are then baled like hay and shipped to Denver, where they are further processed, sorted and sold to American companies making new products out of the recycled materials.

“Most of us have heard that other countries are no longer taking our recycling, and that’s driving an increase in US-based companies creating new products from our recyclables,” Zerowin said. “The vast majority of recyclables collected in Summit County stay in the United States.”

Anyone who has a recycling question can visit HighCountryConservation.org/recycle. Use Rocky the Recycling Robot to search for any item to see if and where it’s recyclable locally. Zerowin said people can also call the HC3 office, which functions like a recycling hotline: staff are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 970-668-5703.


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