Eagle resident says recycling treated as trash; firm says no
When he watched his separated newspapers and plastic bottles get dumped into the back of a trash truck last week, Eagle resident Danny Johnson began to question if the new town of Eagle curbside recycling program is living up to its billing.
“All I know is what I saw. Why dump everything together if it has to be separated later? It seems like that would be a waste of time and money,” Johnson said.
But according to Matt Donovan of Vail Honeywagon, Johnson’s worries that the recycling program is trashing collections are unfounded.
“In 30 years of operations we have never thrown recycling away in the landfill, and we never will,” Donovan said.
Donovan noted that currently, Honeywagon collects enough recycled items for three or four semi-truck loads per week. Once the 110 cubic yard containers are filled, the company hauls the items to Denver. And yes, he noted, the once-separated newspaper and co-mingled containers are then shipped together.
At the Denver recycling center the company uses, there is a single-stream process that takes all co-mingled recycled materials. However, Eagle County is building its own recycling center at the landfill and plans a dual-stream process that will separate paper products from plastic, glass and metal items. In preparation for the new facility, Donovan said Honeywagon distributed two recycling bins to customers so they could get used to separating their recyclables.
Donovan acknowledged that Johnson is not the first customer to question the system after seeing Honeywagon pick up recycling.
“It’s great the community is questioning us. They are looking out their windows and watching us. That means they care,” he said.
On April 1, the town of Eagle launched its curbside recycling program. Under the program terms, Vail Honeywagon now provides all trash-collection services in the town. Every other week, on the same day that trash is collected, residents can place their two recycling containers at the curbside for collection. The new agreement increased Eagle residents’ trash bills from $18 to $22.75 per month for the expanded service.
Donovan said that Vail Honeywagon does use some rear-loading trash trucks to pick up recycling when its designated recycling trucks are down for repairs or when the company has a large volume of routes to service. But don’t judge the service by the truck, he stressed.
Donovan added that people who see Honeywagon recycling trucks exit Interstate 70 at Wolcott get suspicious about where the load is headed. It’s not going to the landfill, he said, but rather to the Vail Honeywagon site located next to the facility. At the Wolcott site, the company stores recyclables until a full semi load is ready to go to Denver.
In addition to his concerns about collections, Johnson noted he has heard that “contaminated” recycling loads are dumped at the landfill. He questioned what criteria was used to determine if a load was contaminated.
“We have never thrown a contaminated load away in 30 years,” Donovan said.
To be deemed too contaminated, a vat of motor oil or some other toxic substance would have to be dumped in the recycling, he said. It takes more than just a little trash to contaminate a recycling load. For example, he noted that, in Denver, recycling materials are routinely extracted from commercial and restaurant dumpsters and sent to centers.
Johnson said that as a participant in the curbside program, he wants assurances that items are truly recycled and not just tossed in the landfill. “These guys [recycling collectors] need to be responsible. I personally believe that recycling isn’t [happening] to the extent they say it is.”
Donovan said the proof is in the trucking records that show 300 to 400 loose yards of recyclables going to Denver each week.
“The Eagle recycling program is going great. The recycling volumes are really high, higher that we expected,” Donovan said.
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