Call us: 970.963.3435

Aspen, Pitkin County recognized as state leaders in recycling and composting

https://www.aspendailynews.com/news/aspen-pitkin-county-recognized-as-state-leaders-in-recycling-and-composting/article_13c731ca-49b5-11ec-bacf-f7500ac8f896.htm

Pitkin County and Aspen are at the top of the list of Colorado municipalities and counties making strides in recycling and composting, but officials say there is still much work to do to get to where they want to be.

The county and city were recognized as state leaders for their recycling and composting efforts last year in the fifth annual State of Composting and Recycling in Colorado report, which was released on Nov. 15. Pitkin County claimed the best greater Colorado countywide residential and commercial rate, with a 38% diversion, while Aspen and Durango were tied for best greater Colorado citywide residential and commercial rate, with a 32% diversion.

According to a county news release, the biggest contributor to the diversion rate is the composting program; the county composted nearly 13,000 tons of material in 2020.

“We are extraordinarily proud of our waste diversion rate, especially because we have the extra challenge of getting most of our recyclables over to Denver for processing,” Solid Waste Director Cathy Hall said in the release. “To have one of the highest recycling rates in the state with the distances we have to go is a big accomplishment.”

As a whole, Colorado’s waste diversion rate was 15.3%, failing to improve over recent years and remaining well below the national average of 32%. While the county is proud to have surpassed both the state and the nation, Hall said on Friday that the question now is, how can the county continue to grow?

“We still get a lot of material going into the landfill,” she said. “There’s more room to grow the compost program. That’s great diversion because it stays local.”

The Pitkin County landfill currently operates the state’s second-largest permit-industrial composting program where anyone can compost food waste, green waste, landscaping debris and brush. The landfill also composts biosolids from wastewater. Hall said that for such a small community, it’s a big deal for the county to have such a large and positively recognized program.

The city of Aspen is also examining how they can take their composting and diversion efforts to the next level. At a work session on Monday, Aspen City Council asked city staff to pursue a change to the city’s ordinance for diverting organic material.

“We still get a lot of material going into the landfill,” she said. “There’s more room to grow the compost program. That’s great diversion because it stays local.”

The Pitkin County landfill currently operates the state’s second-largest permit-industrial composting program where anyone can compost food waste, green waste, landscaping debris and brush. The landfill also composts biosolids from wastewater. Hall said that for such a small community, it’s a big deal for the county to have such a large and positively recognized program.

The city of Aspen is also examining how they can take their composting and diversion efforts to the next level. At a work session on Monday, Aspen City Council asked city staff to pursue a change to the city’s ordinance for diverting organic material.

In 2019, the city diverted 4% of waste into compost, Senior Environmental Health Specialist Liz Chapman said, but the city and county together have lots of room to grow.

“That is a great opportunity for growth — 4% is much more than most communities divert organics to compost, but it’s not nearly the potential,” she said. “Although the city has been close to or above the ­national average, and 38% is great and blowing away the rest of Colorado, we have the potential to get to 50% if everybody recycled everything that could be recycled.”

While the county landfill operates a bigger recycling and composting program, the city also operates recycling efforts at the Rio Grande Recycle Center. The center was funded by the county until 2019, when PitCo switched to curbside recycling and the city took full control of the center. To save money, the city switched from collecting single-stream materials to source-separated materials — meaning instead of collecting all materials together, they designated different bins for glass, scrap metal, yard waste, textiles and batteries.

There were pros and cons to the switch, Chapman said.

“On the upside, it has meant that residents of Aspen have access to yard waste recycling year-round, which they didn’t before, and residents of Aspen have a place to take small scrap metal stuff that you can’t put in your home recycling,” she said.

On the downside, she added, the city reduced services, meaning that residents can no longer recycle any form of plastic or paper at the Rio Grande center. Luckily, because the city and county both require trash service providers to also ­provide ­recycling service, there is a way for residents to recycle their paper, cardboard and plastic, and they also have access to the landfill, Chapman said.

The bottom line, she said, is that what’s more important is not how much you recycle, but that you recycle properly. Knowing what goes into which bin makes all the difference.

“Recycling is real,” Chapman said. “Recycling is always a more energy-efficient way of making consumer products than making them out of raw materials, even when you have to transport that material many thousands of miles. It’s always a winner.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Trash and recycling pick-ups will be delayed by one day on or after the holiday with Friday pick-ups occurring on Saturday.