Ask Eartha: No, the trash guy won’t magically take care of your toxic garbage (column) |

Ask Eartha: No, the trash guy won’t magically take care of your toxic garbage (column)

Two disposed armchairs on a field
Getty Images/Zoonar RF | Zoonar RF

Dear Eartha,

My roommate and I cleaned out our house and have a ton of material we don’t know what to do with, like a tv, mattress, small fridge and old paints. He said just to leave it out on the curb, and the trash guy will pick it up. Is that true? —Eric, Breckenridge

Dear Eric,

In this case, the trash guy is not your answer. For one, he has rules and regulations as to what he can and cannot pick up as well as logistical issues with large and hard-to-move items. In addition, materials left on the curb that aren’t picked up become a public eyesore and safety issue — for both people and wildlife. Waste haulers may provide additional (read: more expensive) services for hauling hard to move materials, but don’t expect them to do it on their regular route. You need to plan ahead and call your hauler to ensure they will pick up your items and for what cost.

Now that we know you shouldn’t leave oversized or difficult to dispose of materials on the curb, let’s talk about other places they shouldn’t go. For one, open space and national forest. We all share in the aesthetic and intrinsic value of open spaces, which means it shouldn’t become a dumping ground for unwanted materials. If you’re going to move a couch, you might as well move it to the appropriate outlet for your area. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s the landfill. Always consult local recycling information for better alternatives like repurposing or recycling. Other places to avoid leaving cumbersome materials are thrift stores. These places provide a community service but aren’t a dumping ground for your hard to dispose of materials. Be considerate of their mission and operation and understand if it’s hard for you to move, it’s hard for them, too.

Another place that is common for illegal dumping (yes, ILLEGAL) is the county Recycling Drop-Off Centers located in Breckenridge and Frisco. These facilities are run by our county government, to whom we pay taxes for such services, and they only accept certain items, which are determined by current commodity values. Read the signs carefully before leaving material at drop-off centers. They do accept scrap metal (no large appliances or refrigerators), plastic bottles #1 and #2, cardboard and paperboard, mixed metal (tin/Aluminum), glass, batteries and used motor oil and antifreeze. Leaving other materials — like household hazardous waste, furniture, old skis and rigid plastics (like kid toys) — is illegal and results in increased costs for waste removal.

The best thing is to call the Recycling Hotline at (970) 668-5703 to discuss proper disposal for various items. Here is a quick guide for common, hard-to-recycle items and disposal requirements. If what you have isn’t on this list, give the hotline a call, and they’ll find a solution that’s right for you. Fees for large items may apply.

Refrigerators — Freon must be removed first. Check out Greer’s in Silverthorne for a vendor that can do that for you. The Summit County Resource Allocation Park (SCRAP) will take the fridge with freon removed. Fees may apply.

Household Hazardous Waste (paints, stains, fertilizers, cleaners) — SCRAP: FREE

Electronics — SCRAP: FREE

Light Bulbs — SCRAP or Lowe’s in Silverthorne

Appliances – SCRAP: Fees may apply

The SCRAP is located on Landfill Road off Highway 6 and is open Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Saturdays 7:30 a.m. to 12 Noon.

Illegal dumping is a fine of up to $1,000, depending on the type and amount of material. To put it in perspective, you could buy two ski passes for the season, pay a month’s rent on an apartment, follow Phish for a few months or have paid for the special hauling of that item ten times over for the penalty of not properly disposing of the item. Get it right the first time, and avoid penalties for yourself and for the community. The Recycling Hotline has answers to your hauling, recycling and disposal needs in Summit County. Before you let your roommate talk you into leaving your materials on the curb, consider the consequences to you, to the wildlife, to your neighbors and to the greater community. It’s not that much harder to do the right thing, and, I guarantee you, it will cost us all less in the long run.

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

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