Most people believe that something (anything) is free if there is no direct cost to them personally, but there are often invisible costs. Municipalities often cover the cost of “free” recycling with increased taxes or with universal fees. In Larimer County, households pay for landfill but recycling is “free.” This means the landfill fees must be set high enough to cover the cost of recycling. Additionally, businesses must pay landfill rates for recycling.
There is some discussion of instituting universal curbside service here, especially on days when old food waste, liquid, diapers, and other truly non-recyclable items contaminate the bins at the RRC (Residential Recycling Center). However, here in Estes we have unusual circumstances. There are visitors who find our limited recycling confusing because we do not recycle everything they can at home. This leads to contamination or they simply “take a vacation from recycling” rather than learn different ways to do it. Others take all their trash with them because they know they have more options at home. These individuals understandably do not want to pay for a service they do not intend to use.
Perhaps even more important: Using the RRC does encourage source-separating cardboard and glass, a significant ecological savings, and it is economically less expensive. Loveland estimates that 30% of single-stream glass is recyclable, less so for Estes with the long mountain trip to the collection yard. 100 % of the RRC source-separated glass and cardboard are recycled.
Single-stream recycling requires collecting and transporting to a collection yard, where it is collected and transported to an MRF (Materials Recovery Facility) where it is sorted and transported to a processing plant, where it is processed and sold to companies that make products. Hauling and sorting increase cost. Source-separated recycling is a bit different. Most MRFs pay the hauler for source-separated used material. Market fluctuation can change with supply and demand, resulting in unpredictable revenue. When MRFs are overstocked, they pay the hauler less per ton. When they are low on supply, they pay the hauler more. Sometimes, it may not cover the cost of hauling. Other times it is more than sufficient.
During the pandemic sheltering, supply for glass and cardboard have risen sharply. The high supply levels should be driving the market price down, but apparently, this emergency is causing an equal swell in demand, at least for cardboard, as the market price is steadily climbing. In recent years, I have seen the value fluctuate from $24 per ton to $180 a ton. Households, of course, can take cardboard to the source-separated bin at the RRC (Residential Recycling Center) for “free”. (Must be cut into pieces not larger than 18 incesh by 18 inches). Cardboard is easily contaminated in single-stream. Due to the current value of clean, dry cardboard, collection yards across the Front Range will welcome this resource (for no charge), offering businesses an opportunity to source-separate as opposed to paying for single-stream. Please remember the cost (economic and ecological) of needless trips down the mountain when considering this option.
Apparently, some readers are unaware. We do have curbside recycling available in Estes from independent contractors. Both companies haul landfill trash and single-stream recycling acceptable at the RRC. Waste Management provides a rolling trash can and charges for weekly pickup. Doering Disposal offers a bag service. This can be advantageous for the visitors who wish to leave their trash here and do not want to pay when not in attendance. However, there is some concern that, perhaps, the plastic bags full of garbage deter decomposition in the landfill.
Agree? Disagree? Comment? RRRcyc@signsandwishes.com