Summit Recycling Project funding hits stable ground
SUMMIT COUNTY – Members of the Summit Recycling Project (SRP) staff left the Summit County Courthouse smiling Monday after the county commissioners agreed to give the group a stable source of annual funding.
Until then, the funds SRP got from the county were tied to the amount of waste dumped at the Summit County landfill. The more trash the landfill accepted, the more money the SRP received. But the quantity of waste the landfill is taking in has been waning since 2001, and along with it, the SRP budget.
The commissioners agreed Monday to give the SRP $170,000 in 2003. Had the amount still been tied to landfill volumes, the group would have received just $109,200 – an amount SRP director Carly Wier said would have made it difficult for the SRP to continue its operations at the current level.
It wasn’t the landfill decreases that were creating potential budget problems for the SRP – local residents have been recycling significantly more trash during the past two years. Between 2001 and 2002, the amount of trash taken to the landfill decreased by 22 percent. Meanwhile, recyclables collected by the SRP increased by 23 percent.
Local officials believe the decrease in landfill volumes is tied directly to the economy, pointing to the completion of large condominium projects in Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Keystone, which were in full swing in 2000 and 2001 – just before the trash volumes took a plunge.
“The landfill is living proof (of the growth slowdown),” said County Commissioner Tom Long.
From now on, county officials plan to fund the SRP just like any other county department – assessing the annual funding based on staff, capital improvements and other needs. That method of funding will eliminate much of the current uncertainty the group faces in relying on trash volumes.
“We can breathe,” Wier said after Monday’s meeting. “I can stop having nightmares.”
The SRP employs eight people – two of them part time – and operates two permanent drop-off centers and a mobile recycling trailer. It also pays to recycle some of the materials the SRP takes in.
“Not all recycling materials pay their own way,” Wier said. “Plastics, magazines, tin cans and cardboard – they cost more than the money we get for them.”
The SRP sells most of its materials to a Denver materials broker and sells its collected glass to Coors Brewing Co. in Golden.
In addition to funds it receives from the county, the SRP is supported by all four towns, grants, fundraisers and other community events. But the county portion makes up between 35 and 40 percent of the SRP’s total budget.
The tipping fee charged to landfill users supports a variety of programs. “Recycling is just one of them,” County Commissioner Lindstrom said.
“We’ll still take the money (for SRP) from the same fund,” he said. “It will just not be connected to the amount of trash being hauled.”
Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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