Summit County and Arapahoe Basin showed off recycling facilities to media group from Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked, mountainous country in Central Asia that is farther from sea than any other country on the planet. The former Soviet satellite has come far since it became an independent nation after the fall of the USSR in 1991, but it still struggles with some everyday issues — like waste management — that Americans take for granted. In an effort to learn better strategies for waste and recycling, Kyrgyzstan’s state-run Elkanaly TV station sent a three-person media contingent to tour and make an informational documentary about waste-management facilities across the U.S., including the Summit County Resource Allocation Park landfill near Keystone and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s waste management facility.
The Kyrgyz group included translator and news announcer Aina Isakova, reporter Salabat Erkitaeva and cameraman Kainar Ormonov. The group traveled from the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek to the U.S. for two weeks, touring waste management facilities in New York, Washington, D.C., Boulder and Denver before arriving in Summit County on Wednesday. The group spent much of their last half of the tour in Colorado because of its similarity to Kyrgyzstan in terms of climate and terrain.
“There are a lot of mountains in Kyrgyzstan,” said Isakova, who also manages Elkanaly’s International Affairs department. “It’s like Colorado, it’s also a mountainous place with a dry climate, some water and much snow.”
The tour started out at Arapahoe Basin and its waste diversion system in the morning, followed by a bus tour around the SCRAP site in the afternoon. Aaron Byrne, SCRAP’s solid waste director, led the tour and showed the Kyrgyz cohort how waste management worked in Summit County. Byrne said that he learned about the lack of facilities in Kyrgyzstan during a roundtable discussion with the group.
“They have a lot of obstacles and challenges in Kyrgyzstan,” Byrne said. “One of them is the lack of infrastructure in their country. This is all new to them, and they’re really trying to find new concepts and new ways to do better recycling in their country.”
As her partners hopped on and off the bus to film segments next to heavy machinery working on piles of glass bottles, wood chips and compost around the facility, Isakova explained that Kyrgyzstan had nothing like SCRAP or diversion systems like those at A-Basin.
“We’re making this film for our government because we have really big problems with garbage,” Isakova said. “We don’t have any recycling centers, any composting, just landfills and nothing more. We are deeply impressed by what we’ve seen here. We’ve never seen such kind of recycling centers or facilities, because we have no such abilities to recycle back home.”
Isakova explained that the very concept of sorting garbage was impressive to her group.
“We have no special bins for recycling or composting. We just drop our trash into one bin, and the state sanitation department just picks up our garbage throws it into the landfill. And the trash is just lying there, poisoning nature and people’s health.”
Assistant county manager Thad Noll was on hand for the tour, representing the county and explaining how the government put these processes into place. He said that the Kyrgyzs group was hoping to emulate Summit’s model for waste management back home.
“At this moment, they’re interested in this process and want to start to build a new recycling center there,” Noll said. “But the problem is that they seem to be standing in one place. They know that they can’t keep the system they have, which is taking their waste and putting it in a big hole. It’s such a big problem they don’t even know how to start tackling it.”
Noll added that Summit’s model appealed to the group as it was on a much smaller, yet efficient, scale suitable for their environment and resources.
“The scale SCRAP operates at is more appropriate for what they want to do than the Denver model that’s got a multi-million dollar operation and is far more complex. What they need is basic, entry-level of recycling management.”
Isakova said that the group’s tour had been a fruitful one, and hoped it would provide inspiration for her government to seriously tackle their waste problem.
“We are really impressed,” Isakova said, “and we are going to show our film to our government and hope they will take it into consideration, that they will learn something. We also hope to have a chance to invite someone from the U.S. to come and to Kyrgyzstan and teach us how to build these facilities and show us the right way to recycle, because it’s a really big problem we’re dealing with.”
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