Basalt, Pitkin County renew subsidy for recycling center in West Basalt

Basalt resident Gretchen Weber drops her recycling at the Waste Management recycle center on Thursday afternoon.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Basalt town government and Pitkin County will subsidize one of the largest trash haulers in North America to ensure a recycling center remains open in the midvalley.

The two governments will pay $23,500 each to Waste Management Inc. to operate the recycling center at Willits Lane and Park Avenue. The center was relocated in 2014 from its former location by Town Hall near downtown to the Basalt Design and Industrial Center in West Basalt.

The site has its critics — it’s closed on weekends and its hours of operation are limited on weekdays. The site is used as a transfer station for Waste Management. Trucks hauling recycled materials dump their loads there to be sorted and packaged for delivery to recycling operations. The site is fenced off and the gate is closed when the station isn’t in use. That prevents people from dumping garbage, which always was a problem at the unregulated downtown site.

Despite the operational shortcomings, the Basalt site is heavily used. Cathy Hall, solid waste manager for Pitkin County, said there are no other plans for a recycling center for the midvalley.

Pitkin County stopped operating its recycling centers, including the heavily used one at the Rio Grande site in Aspen in spring 2014 because it was subsidizing the program by roughly $350,000 per year. Waste Management placed the winning bid to take over that service. It’s a three-year contract.

Basalt is a different game and not part of Pitkin County’s contract.

“In October of last year, Waste Management notified staff that they were going to have to shut down the public recycling component of their facility at the corner of Willits Lane and Park Avenue unless the town or other entities could help them offset the cost of keeping the public recycling facilities open,” James Lindt, assistant planning director, said in a memo to the council this fall. The town decided to split the cost of $3,600 per month with Pitkin County.

The town government is maintaining that subsidy for 2017, but planning for the future. The Green Team, a board of volunteers that advises the town on environmental issues, advised the council to require trash haulers to provide curbside recycling at no extra cost to their trash service.

The Town Council passed an ordinance in October to require curbside recycling service from haulers. It includes a provision that requires haulers to charge for trash based on the volume collected. That system, dubbed “pay as you throw,” is meant to encourage recycling.

It’s unclear how the town could prevent a trash hauler from raising its rates for trash pickup to offset the extra expense of offering curbside recycling service.