City recycling program to become permanent
ASPEN ” The city of Aspen is poised to make its recycling ordinance, which requires waste haulers to offer the service at no additional charge, a permanent law.
The Aspen City Council earlier this week signed off on a first draft of the updated ordinance, which was approved in 2005 in its original form and was effective for three years. The new ordinance, which will have no sunset date, is scheduled for final approval on July 28, said Lee Cassin, City Hall’s environmental health director.
When first adopted, the ordinance was temporary out of deference to public concerns about increased traffic, noise and cost. Some critics of the ordinance speculated that waste haulers would increase their rates and there wouldn’t be enough space in the commercial core to handle additional recycling containers.
Three years later, Cassin said none of those concerns have become realities.
“The ordinance has been really trouble-free,” she said, adding minimal changes will be made to the original law.
Noise complaints of waste and recycling trucks are no more prevalent than they were before the ordinance was enacted, Cassin added.
After the ordinance, the number of trucks on the road increased by 12 per week, Cassin said. And considering that more than 800 dump trucks and 23,000 vehicles enter Aspen every day, environmental health officials consider the increase in trucks to be negligible.
Out of the thousands of citizens and hundreds of businesses in Aspen, the environmental health department received seven complaints about cost increases since the original law went into effect, said Ashley Cantrell, who is in charge of the city’s recycling program.
Plus, the law mandates that haulers can’t raise their rates as a result of providing recycling services.
After the ordinance went into effect, downtown businesses were able to find suitable places in alleys with the assistance of the Environmental Health Department, Cantrell said.
In 2006, 14 percent of the Aspen population, which includes both residential and commercial customers, recycled, officials said. In 2007, that rate increased to 16 percent. Although Aspen’s recycling rate is still low in comparison to the rest of the nation, it surpasses Colorado’s 12.5 percent rate. The national average is 30 percent, Cantrell said.
Since the ordinance was adopted, 173 businesses started or expanded their recycling efforts, Cantrell said, adding she estimates that another 102 companies will start service now that they have signed new contracts with haulers.
Cantrell estimates there are at least 300 residential customers recycling through their waste haulers and another couple of hundred have signed new contracts. It’s hard to know for sure because haulers are protective of their client lists and city officials find it difficult to track the number of users.
Cantrell said she walks the commercial core and surrounding neighborhoods to track who is recycling and if they are doing so properly. An amendment to the original ordinance proposes that haulers be required to report how many tons they have collected over a period of time.
Because the city didn’t have a recycling program in place until three years ago, there is no baseline to determine how many people are actually using recycling now that it’s a free service, Cantrell said.
But city officials can report that in 2007, 4,351 tons of recyclable material was diverted from the landfill. In 2006, 3,327 tons was recycled.
“I think we’re getting most of the restaurants, but not a lot of the smaller businesses,” Cantrell said, adding the city of Aspen is one of the only municipalities that includes commercial users. “It’s the most bang for your buck.”
Residential customers can recycle co-mingled items such as cans, bottles, metal and glass, as well as newspaper. Commercial users also can recycle office paper and cardboard, in addition to the other items.
But haulers say customers aren’t educated enough when it comes to separating and knowing what is recyclable.
“They throw everything in together,” said Dee Hockinf, a co-owner of Vip Svc Trash Removal, adding her operating costs rise when her staff must separate a container because items were not placed properly. “They need to keep the containers clean … this isn’t New York where they take everything and sort it.
“I’m for [recycling] 100 percent but if you don’t do it right, it doesn’t do any good.”
Wally Graham, owner of Waste Solutions, agrees that there is not enough public outreach and education.
While his company hasn’t seen increased costs associated with the ordinance, Graham’s workers do spend a considerable amount of time sorting recyclables.
“The education isn’t there,” he said, adding Waste Solutions gives new customers an information packet on what the Pitkin County Landfill allows when it comes to recycling. “But it doesn’t seem to be enough.”
Not all haulers provide recycling containers for residential customers, however. Vip Svc Trash Removal does not offer recycling bins; customers must buy their own ” although the hauler does offer the lowest rate for trash pick-up. Waste Solutions offers containers for free and Rocky Mountain Disposal offers a 10-gallon bin at no charge.
For more information on the city’s recycling program, call Cantrell at 429-1798. For guidelines on how to recycle, log onto http://www.aspenpitkin.com/solidwaste.
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