Ask Earth: A history rich in recycling in Summit County |

Ask Earth: A history rich in recycling in Summit County

If you ask any HC3 staff member when the practice of recycling started in Summit County, we’ll dutifully reply “1976.” This is the year that marks the founding of Summit Recycling Project, “a nonprofit educational-experimental organization to promote resource recovery and reduce wastefulness” by Tim McClure, a recycling activist and visionary.

It all started when folks like Tim McClure, Anne Aronson, Chip Barrett and a core group of volunteers collected recycling in the back of a station wagon. Years later, Bob and Rose Wentzell took over the reins and eventually opened the Breckenridge and Frisco recycling drop-off centers.

As staff, we love to share these stories. While what was the Summit Recycling Project developed into the High Country Conservation Center, we continue to share a deep connection to our roots. We carry a sense of pride for our history rich in recycling and for our founding fathers and mothers who created a conservation ethic that still inspires us today.

While 1976 is our benchmark for the start of a grassroots movement in Summit County that is in large part due to the success of our current programs, recycling is no stranger to history.

From Romans recycling bronze coins into statues to pre-industrial examples of pre-cycling and household re-use, recycling is embedded in our past and an important part of our future. I have vivid memories of my grandmother telling stories of reusing and recycling everything imaginable during the Great Depression. During this period, recycling and reusing resources was a necessity, not a feel-good activity or a way to curb consumption guilt.

These days, working in the recycling industry can sometimes feel like being at the tail pipe of American consumption, an uphill battle. As we are faced with new challenges including finding recycling solutions for the ever-changing waste stream, lobbying to reducing the toxicity in the products we consume, and securing funding for new diversion programs, it’s helpful to remember the challenges our predecessors overcame.

Having a history rich in recycling and being surrounded by dedicated Summit County conservationists helps clear the foggy future for resource conservation in our community. I am optimistic that our community will one day move beyond just recycling and develop advanced solutions for keeping valuable resources in the production cycle and out of the landfill.

As we wrestle with these optimistic goals and work to develop solutions, we rely on the support from the community we serve. We hope you’ll join HC3 at the 22nd Annual Tim McClure Benefit this Friday, March 4 at the Maggie in Breckenridge; an event that can only be described as a local treasure, bringing together long-time locals and a growing number of new supporters. Proceeds from the Tim McClure Benefit, ensure the success of our conservation programs. For more information about tickets to the Tim McClure Benefit, please check out our website at

Whether you attend the McClure Benefit, donate you time, expertise, money, or simply just participate in the recycling programs available in the community, your participation is integral to the future of resource conservation in our community.

Eartha Steward is written by Jennifer Santry and Erin Makowsky, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Submit questions to Eartha at with Ask Eartha as the subject or to High Country Conservation Center, P.O. Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.

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