Recycling program worth the cost
August 23, 2005
The Times supports the Aspen City Council’s intent to boost recycling efforts, divert more garbage from the Pitkin County Landfill and, in the end, use fewer raw materials. It’s time for Aspen to beef up its recycling program. This initiative will mean some residential and business customers pay more money, and some locals have raised valid concerns about those costs, especially for business owners. The cost of doing business in Aspen is already stratospheric, and this won’t make it any cheaper. However, there are other long-term costs to consider – namely the life of the landfill.When the Pitkin County landfill reaches capacity in an estimated 15-20 years, garbage disposal for the upper valley will enter a new era. Either Pitkin County will have to find a new local site to accept its trash (between the cost of the ground and the number of deep-pocketed local NIMBYs, this is truly the longest of shots) or haul the trash out of the county.Neither solution will be cheap. And the costs will be passed on to consumers, and garbage-hauling rates will likely vault far beyond anything resulting from this recycling ordinance. In other words, the longer we can extend the life of the county landfill, the better. And the easiest way to lengthen the life of the dump is to throw fewer objects into it.Today’s voluntary recycling program relies on locals’ good conscience to separate newspapers, plastic, glass and aluminum from trash and to take it to the recycling center on Rio Grande Place or Two Rivers Road in Basalt. Many recycle because they believe in it, but many more will recycle if they’re paying for the service.Here’s the way the proposed program, which council members will take up again on Sept. 26, is supposed to work: The ordinance will not require residents or businesses to recycle, but it will require garbage haulers to include the handling of recyclable materials in their base rate. Since everyone will pay for the new mandatory service, presumably everyone will use it.Also, since garbage pickup charges are calculated on volume, consumers stand to save money by removing recyclables from their garbage and putting them in a separate bin.This step makes sense for Aspen, which prides itself on being green. Recycling is the right thing to do from a conservation standpoint, and by extending the life of the landfill, it will help keep garbage disposal rates more affordable in the long run.