Pitkin County mulls changes in recycling program
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Pitkin County commissioners aren’t anxious to pull the plug on Aspen’s recycling center, but they agreed Tuesday to explore options to reduce the $150,000 subsidy that is required to provide a spot where residents can drop off recyclables for free.
The center, located on city of Aspen property along the edge of Rio Grande Park, is operated by the county and funded through the county landfill budget. Other landfill fee revenues have dropped with the recession, and supporting the free recycling center is no longer possible unless other budget priorities are adjusted, according to Chris Hoofnagle, the county’s solid waste manager.
The recycling center is most heavily used by city residents who already pay for the curbside pickup of recyclable materials as part of the fee charged by garbage haulers, he noted.
“Recycling is not free. Operating the recycling center is not free. Somebody is footing the bill, and that’s the county,” Hoofnagle said.
The options, he stressed, don’t include discontinuing local recycling efforts.
“Nobody’s proposing an end to the recycling program,” he said. “We would never do that.”
However, in January, Hoofnagle estimated recycling operations at the landfill would run at a projected deficit of close to $600,000 this year, including the $150,000 that goes to operation of the recycling center. The value of recyclable materials doesn’t come close to covering the county’s cost to handle them and ship them elsewhere for processing, he said.
In addition to materials brought to the Aspen recycling center and a similar drop-off center in Basalt, the county landfill also accepts recyclables free from commercial haulers – one brought a load from Rifle on Tuesday, he reported.
In January, commissioners indicated they didn’t want to charge haulers a fee to bring recyclables to the landfill. On Tuesday, they were more receptive to that idea – at least for out-of-county haulers – to help pay for recycling.
“To me, that is part of the equation,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards.
“I could see charging for out-of-county commercial loads,” Commissioner Michael Owsley agreed.
Owsley, though, called the recycling center a “great community service” that meets residents’ needs even if they pay for curbside pickup of materials as part of their trash fee.
“But, I hate to see the county taking the entire burden,” he said.
Commissioners, who are slated to discuss the recycling program with the City Council during a June 1 joint meeting, indicated interest in seeking city participation in paying to operate the center.
Another option is limiting the types of materials people can drop off at the center to items that aren’t always part of the curbside service – cardboard and magazines, for example. Scaling back on the scope of the center’s operations would save money, Hoofnagle said.
Richards suggested the county explore an ordinance patterned after the city’s, which requires trash haulers to build curbside pickup of recyclables into their base price. The county currently requires haulers to provide recycling pick-up to any resident who wants it, but that doesn’t mean it’s included in the trash fee. The added cost is something of a recycling disincentive, she said.
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