Surprise, surprise " Recycling in Pitkin County works |

Surprise, surprise " Recycling in Pitkin County works

There are many people in this valley who recycle diligently, but there are many others who think local recycling is a grand charade. Some of these skeptics recycle, nonetheless, and some don’t bother ” after all, why put in the effort if your bottles, cans and newspapers just get buried anyway?

An informal newsroom poll found a number of recycling skeptics on the staff. Just like the broader community, The Aspen Times’ employees weren’t convinced that their recyclables were truly being recycled. So we did what any self-respecting journalist would do ” we looked into it.

And though we did not follow actual truckloads of scrap metal or commingled materials to distribution centers in Denver and Grand Junction, we became convinced that our milk bottles aren’t just being heaved into a pit and covered with Pitkin County soil. In fact, we were quite impressed with what we saw at the landfill.

The county’s landfill operators are under no mandate to do so, but they are diverting more than half of the material that enters the gate, stockpiling it and selling it for reuse somewhere else. The landfill takes wood, grass clippings and leaves from consumers, throws those materials into giant piles of compost, which it then resells to landscapers. Tons of rock and dirt brought in by builders and excavators are sifted and crushed for resale as road base. And vast heaps of scrap metal, cardboard, plastics and other materials are baled and sold for remanufacturing.

Some of these efforts pay for themselves and others don’t, but the county has set the fees it charges to garbage dumpers in order to make up the difference. This is smart management, both environmentally and fiscally.

Reducing our waste and reusing the materials we consume is simply the responsible thing to do, but it’s also good for our pocketbooks. When the Pitkin County Landfill reaches capacity someday, it will cost untold millions to purchase a new site and build a 21st-century landfill. Though cheaper, it will also cost plenty to transport Pitkin County’s trash to another landfill.

The longer the existing landfill can be kept open, the better and cheaper for all concerned. The county is doing everything in its power to lengthen the life of its landfill, and we say keep up the good work.

Congratulations to Public Works Director Brian Pettet, Deputy Director Miles Stotts (who ran the landfill himself for several years), Solid Waste Manager Chris Hoofnagle and the Board of County Commissioners on a job well done.

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