There’s no place like home for Basalt recycling center
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home for the Basalt recycling center, town officials have concluded.
The town is facing an interesting dilemma that pits aesthetics against environmental benefits. Town Council members directed their staff last winter to look into moving the recycling bins to a site that wasn’t as visible.
A contingent of the council felt it was inappropriate to have the large bins right at the west entrance to the downtown area. The station is intended for use by people recycling plastic containers, cans, bottles, newspapers and cardboard, but the site is also used by clandestine litterbugs. Old furniture, mattresses and bags of garbage frequently materialize at the site in the dark of night.
Nonetheless, the site is “extremely valuable” as a recycling center, said Chris Hoofnagle, solid waste manager at the Pitkin County Landfill. The county picks up the recyclable materials at no direct cost to the town of Basalt. The town public works staff, however, often polices the site to remove refuse.
Hoofnagle said the Basalt center accounts for between 30 and 40 percent of all major recyclables that the county hauls. That figure doesn’t include what the private garbage collection firms collect. Most companies offer a curbside recycling program.
Pitkin County’s trucks haul about 1,000 tons of cardboard per year, with about 400 tons coming from Basalt. About 1,200 tons of co-mingled bottles, cans and plastics are collected along with 1,200 tons of newspaper. Up to 40 percent of those materials comes from Basalt, as well. The only other recycling site established by Pitkin County is by Rio Grande Park in Aspen.
“There is very little going on in the rest of the valley, actually,” Hoofnagle said. He and Basalt officials suspect that the Basalt site serves as a regional center for recycling.
Hoofnagle said the Basalt site is so successful because it is easily accessible and close to the town core, where businesses are more likely to use it.
It appears likely the recycling center will stay put. After studying alternative sites last winter, town staffers concluded the cost of moving the site would be prohibitive.
Councilwoman Anne Freedman noted at a recent council meeting that the site is right across Two Rivers Road from town-owned property that is destined to become the “jewel” of Basalt. That land, the Levinson property, is going to become a riverside park and possibly the home of the Basalt Regional Library and a Roaring Fork Conservancy nature center.
“I feel very strongly that we don’t want it where it is,” Freedman said.
Councilman Leroy Duroux countered that the recycling center is highly functional at its current site. He said people would trade off the aesthetic issues for the ease the site creates and the environmental benefits of the program.
“Everything doesn’t have to look beautiful all the time,” he said. “It’s never going to look beautiful because it is what it is.”
The council decided to seek a compromise of spiffing up the current site, possibly with landscaping, and making it safer by pulling the bins farther off the travel lanes of Two Rivers Road.
Killing the program wasn’t considered. The town staff is still working on a plan to improve the current site. It will be back before the council for discussion in June.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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