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Skico seeks recycling opportunities

Jeremy Heiman

Does anyone want 10,000 perfectly good plastic bags?

Aspen Skiing Co., in its quest to be as green as it can be, is creating a volunteer employee council to figure out what to do with questionable assets like those 10,000 bags. The council will identify instances of waste within the company and find solutions through recycling and re-use.

Chris Lane, Skico director of environmental affairs, said the group, called the Conservation Council, is made up of employees who volunteer their time as recycling coordinators. Every Skico building and work area will have a volunteer member of the council.

The group met for the first time last week, said ski patroller Karl Oliver, who is also president of the Skico’s Environment Foundation. The primary point of the discussion, Oliver said, was deciding what categories of recyclables ought to be saved and placing bins and signs in work areas.

The Skico wants to address waste of energy, water and materials, Lane said, but at first, solid waste will be the focus. The company already works with Wally’s Recycling to return hundreds of tons of materials to eventual use.

But a company the size of Aspen Skiing Co. discards a lot of stuff, everything from food packaging to lift towers. Lift towers aren’t much of a problem, since they have value as scrap, Lane said, but some of the other materials require more thought.

So the group discussed a site for a re-use center, where perfectly good items would go when the Skico has no further need for them. Members think they may have found space at Aspen Highlands, Lane said. But a lot of space is needed.

Unneeded items include 250 extra trash can lids the company somehow ended up with. Lane’s department has dispatched an e-mail notice to all employees that the lids were available for the taking. But in the meantime, they have no place to put the lids.

Another example, Lane said, is more 10,000 large clear plastic bags the company received recently. New uniforms for the ski school arrived packed in the bags, each part of each uniform in a separate oversized bag.

These bags, which are big enough to be used as home trash bags, will be available to Skico employees through the re-use program, Lane said.

“They’ll never have to buy another trash bag in their life,” he remarked.

The re-use area may be able to accept such things as lumber and unwanted bicycles, too, Oliver said.

At a future meeting, Oliver said, the group will meet with representatives of Wally’s Recycling and try to put together a complete program for next ski season. Most of the emphasis will be on the Skico’s own on-mountain restaurants and recycling bins.

Information is part of the council’s work, too, Lane said. The group has produced a pamphlet to introduce the program to employees and let them know what they can or ought to do to help.

“We also want to let people know when they throw stuff out, they’re throwing out the company’s money,” Lane said.

The council is now doing an audit to determine what materials on hand can be recycled.

“One of our goals is just to know how much waste we recycle and how much we throw away,” Lane said. No records have been kept in those areas to this point. Another goal is to get a lot more volunteers into the program, Oliver said.

“If we can spread it out, we won’t have to work so hard to get this off the ground,” he said.

An additional goal, of course, is to increase the amount of material and the number of different materials that are recycled. And to find out what options are available, the council has sought consulting help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Waste Wise program.

The Skico has been recognized internationally for its efforts in conservation, but Lane said he feels it’s important for the Skico’s recycling program to be even more thorough, as an example for other businesses.

“I just have a personal vendetta to prove to everyone – to businesses, especially – that recycling is not just a feel-good environmental thing, but it’s good for the bottom line,” he said.


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