City Council OKs recycling initiative
Despite the hint of a legal challenge and the local landfill manager’s suggestion that Aspen could take other, more effective steps, the Aspen City Council voted unanimously Monday to adopt a new recycling initiative.The ordinance requires garbage haulers to include the pickup of recyclable materials in the base rate they charge customers. The presumption is that businesses and residents will find curbside or alleyway collection more convenient and will therefore participate, especially since they’ll be paying for it as part of their trash bill.The ordinance does not, however, make recycling mandatory – no one will be fined for throwing their newspapers in the garbage.Haulers continued to complain that the ordinance puts the onus on them by failing to make recycling mandatory for customers. The legal counsel for Waste Management said the ordinance violates state laws that prohibit government from setting rates for trash collection. The ordinance forces a “rate design,” said Kimberly Viergever, representing Waste Management.”As drafted, it has the potential of running amok with statutory law,” she said.”I’m aware of the legal arguments that are being made,” said John Worcester, city attorney. “I respectfully disagree with your analysis.”Some local haulers may not be able to afford the additional trucks and containers that will be necessary, Viergever added.”They may not be able to compete in this market. You may end up with one trash hauler in the city that can charge whatever they want,” she said.Chris Hoofnagle, site manager for the Pitkin County landfill, said Aspen and Pitkin County already do a good job of recycling, diverting 30,000 cubic yards of material annually from the landfill. Additional efforts at recycling are welcome, but Aspen could take other steps that would do more to extend the life of the landfill, he said.Hoofnagle suggested an ordinance requiring contractors to use the soil and rock that the landfill separates and stockpiles instead of burying it in the landfill. The collection of food waste for the landfill’s composting operation would also be beneficial, he said.The latter is “an interesting and tough” proposition, he conceded.The city staff focused on increased recycling of cans, glass, plastic, paper and cardboard after observing how much of those materials don’t get recycled, explained Jannette Murison, senior environmental health specialist for the city.But some council members were clearly surprised by Hoofnagle’s comments.”I’m shocked with what I hear as a significant difference of opinion here,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “My enthusiasm for this has been deflated by what I’ve heard this evening.””My enthusiasm is potentially deflated … I am shocked,” agreed Councilman Jack Johnson.But Councilwoman Rachel Richards lobbied for adoption of the ordinance and all of her colleagues ultimately agreed to go forward with the initiative.”We’re way behind what we should be doing as a pre-eminent resort community,” Richards said, advocating a base rate for trash pickup that includes recycling.”An incentive is, it doesn’t cost you any extra to recycle. Right now, it costs you extra and that is a huge disincentive,” she said.Klanderud also called for recycling containers throughout the downtown core, next to the trash receptacles.The recycling ordinance takes effect in late November, but actually affects residents and businesses as their current contracts with garbage haulers expire. The ordinance expires in three years unless the city extends it.The council also agreed to exempt cardboard for businesses that currently transport the material to the local recycling center. They can continue to do so rather than pay what could be a pricey sum to have it picked up by a garbage hauler.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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