County takes over recycling
December 20, 2005
FRISCO – When the new year starts, the county will begin its takeover of the recycling program from Summit Recycling ProjectWhile the takeover’s risks include how to keep the program progressive and growing under a system paid for by taxes, it will mean an easier recycling process for local residents. While locals won’t notice any change in drop-off locations, recycling procedures will get a little simpler. When the county-owned Material Recovery Center (MRF) opens at the landfill near Keystone, it will allow people to blend (rather than sort) recyclable materials, such as aluminum and plastic.MRF is scheduled to open in February or March, said Carly Wier, executive director of Summit Recycling Project, a mission-driven nonprofit that became reincorporated in 1989 by Rose and Bob Wentzell. Talk of the transition started in 1999, when the county did a community survey that indicated recycling was the No. 3 need for capital improvements. In fall of 2003, taxpayers passed a mill levy to fund capital improvements, one of which included the MRF.Since the new center will accept commingled recyclables, it also will make it easier for private waste haulers to offer curbside collection. Currently, Waste Management collects mixed materials because it has its own recycling center, and other haulers pick up recycling on a limited basis. But with MRF, anyone will be able to drop materials off.”We should be able to increase our recyclable volume significantly over the next few years in the county, and more importantly, we should be able to increase the number of different things we can recycle,” said Thad Noll, assistant county manager. “The biggest thing is it will make it easier for people to do recycling.”Dave Whitmer, CFO of Timberline Disposal, said MRF will make it more convenient for his company to offer curbside pickup of recyclables.Other benefits include handling a comprehensive waste management plan under one roof. When the county takes over recycling, it also will absorb five of the seven staff members at SRP.”I think waste management should be done by the government because we are people and we all produce waste. Not any one person or company should have the responsibility,” Wentzell said.However, the danger of a government-run recycling program comes if the economy goes sour. As a nonprofit, SRP always remained mission-driven, meaning it took batteries and motor oil even though it cost a lot of money to dispose of them, and it took plastics whether or not it could sell them. The bottom line was keeping stuff out of landfills, as opposed to focusing on finances, Wier said.
“Often recycling is thought of as an extra program, so the risk is if they cut the budget, they could cut the recycling program or cut commodities that we accepted,” she said. “We have both political and public support for recycling right now, but opinions change drastically when you’re in budget cuts. We’re willing to stretch money out.”Another risk she sees involves a lack of progression, or keeping the status quo once the county reaches a certain level of participation. SRP always viewed zero waste as a possibility and aimed for it.”The big concern is once it gets automated, people get lazy – are they going to do the right thing, or are they going to do the cheapest?” Wentzell said.Rick Pocius, county engineer and landfill manager agreed there is a risk but said “compared to the benefits, it’s very small.” He hopes recycling will pay for itself and possibly help subsidize the landfill.And overall, Wier and Wentzell also see the benefits.”Right now, it’s awesome. We couldn’t ask for a better political climate,” Wier said. “The county is really supportive of recycling.”The change comes at a time when SPR wanted to encourage more recycling but really couldn’t handle more volume with the equipment and facility it had, Wier said. Government involvement means more resources.In 2004, recycling in Summit County conserved:
• 48,380 million BTU of energy, or enough to power 460 households of four for one year • 2,114 metric tons carbon emissions (a measure of greenhouse gases), or enough to take 1595 passenger cars off of the road for one year • 3,725 tons of airborne emissions • 14 tons of waterborne wastes • 265 tons of coal • 23 tons of limestone • 473 tons of iron ore • 10,332 forty-foot Douglas fir treesSource: Summit Recycling Project
Recycled Paper Goes A Long Way• The average American uses more than 667 pounds of paper a year. If it were recycled, each person could save more than four trees a year.• The writing paper people throw away each year could build a 12-foot wall from New York to Los Angeles.• Making recycled paper uses 50 percent as much energy as making paper from trees and uses 60 percent less water.• Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 trees, enough energy to run a car for 1,260 miles, 3.2 cubic yards of landfill space and enough power for an average household for six months.Source: Summit Recycling ProjectKimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13624, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.