Clearing up recycling confusion in Pitkin County |

Clearing up recycling confusion in Pitkin County

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times
Peggy Chain, of Carbondale, stands on a step stool to drop off her bag of recycling at the Rio Grande Recycling Center in Aspen. Since the recycle center in Carbondale only takes cardboard and paper, Chain brings the rest of her recycling up to Aspen once a week.
Aubree Dallas |

Recycling definitions

Single stream — Allows all recycling, including cardboard, co-mingle containers, cardboard and glass, into one bin.

Dual stream — Rigids (hard glass and plastics) and fibers separated

Source separation — Recyclable materials are divided into separate containers.

Co-mingle — Allows the mixture of rigids — glass, aluminum, plastic and tin — into one bin

At a Pitkin County commissioners meeting in July, Commissioner Rachel Richards pointed out how confusing it is to figure out what can and can’t be recycled at her Aspen address.

“We need more clarity with the recycling program,” Richards said. “Nobody really knows how it works.”

Recycling is an evolving business, with different options being offered. Pitkin County has seven different waste and recycling businesses to choose from, and each offers slightly different services. The Pitkin County Landfill changed from source-separated to single-stream recycling in April.

Cathy Hall, the county’s solid-waste manager, said county residents can choose whichever business they want.

“There’s some confusion about that,” Hall said. “We get a lot of questions about recycling and try to help as much as possible. The bottom line is people need to contact their individual server for clarifications.”

Hall said choosing a business takes some diligence and common sense.

“If I had to choose a server and was new to the area, I’d talk to my neighbors and get their opinions on the quality of the service they receive,” Hall said. “A lot of people assume all the servers do the same thing for the same price. That’s not the case at all. People need to call the servers and get the different rates.”

Recycling is available throughout Pitkin County, but there’s a difference between the county and the city of Aspen.

Every county waste and recycling business picks up trash as its base service. Pitkin County has an ordinance stating that all businesses must offer recycling, which they do, and residents can elect not to use and pay for the service.

However, in Aspen, recycling is included with residential trash service. There’s no separate line item with a charge for recycling; that cost is incorporated into the trash fee.

“You don’t have to recycle in Aspen,” said Jack Johnson, the public outreach and education coordinator for the Pitkin County Landfill. “But you’re paying for it, no matter what.”

Snowmass Village is unique in that it’s the only local area offering its own municipal provider for trash and recycling. In other words, Snowmass has a single provider giving exclusive local service.

Johnson said the landfill staff is working with the county and the municipalities of Aspen and Snowmass Village to create a comprehensive educational program about recycling.

“We’re putting together a campaign to debunk the myths surrounding recycling,” Johnson said. “We need to clarify the options within our communities.”

Hall said another area that needs clarification is the disposal of hazardous materials. The county landfill takes hazardous materials, like paint, antifreeze, tires, refrigerators, car batteries and more, for a fee. For example, the landfill charges between $5 and $8 per gallon of hazardous liquids.

Hall said all Pitkin County residents get a $100 credit annually at the landfill to encourage the proper disposal of materials.

“All you need to do is sign up at the landfill,” Hall said. “Residents must bring a driver’s license to the landfill along with either a car registration, utility bill or property tax bill. Last year, we subsidized $80,000 with the annual credit.”