Glenwood’s plans to move recycle center to landfill sparks criticism
Anyone with reservations about Glenwood Springs’ plans to relocate the city’s recycling center west of town to the South Canyon Landfill come March should at least “give it a try,” says Landfill Superintendent King Lloyd.
The change could even turn into a significant cost savings for the savvy consumer who might choose to ditch curbside pickup service in favor of regular trips to the landfill to get rid of their trash and recyclables in one stop, Lloyd went so far as to suggest.
“It will be virtually the same operation as we have down on School Street now, it just involves a bit of a scenic drive outside of town to get there,” he said.
An all-weather pad has been constructed near the main landfill entrance where the recycle containers will be relocated. The new recycle center is accessible by a paved road, so the average car can make the trip without traipsing through mud, Lloyd also explained.
“And it will be manned for anyone who needs help unloading cardboard or anything,” he said.
Those are the positives city officials are trying to convey after receiving a fair amount of criticism with the announcement last week that the current in-town facility will move to the landfill effective March 1.
The move is necessary to allow for a land swap with the Roaring Fork School District, which plans to use what’s now the recycling center as part of the new Glenwood Springs Elementary School campus. The city in turn will take ownership of the Vogelaar Park parcel north of the school that is being eyed for redevelopment as part of the river confluence master plan.
The recycling center decision prompted a barrage of Facebook comments, mostly negative, when the story appeared online Dec. 20 at postindependent.com and in the paper.
“It’s ridiculous in this day and age to make it harder to recycle,” wrote one resident, Ruth Sears. “Carbon footprint increases with such a long drive, not to mention an icy one in the winter.”
Sears and others have suggested another location be found in town that would be convenient to continue the free recycling drop-off service.
“It should be a priority,” she said.
“For the taxes we pay here in our valley, I do not see how this is the best that Glenwood has come up with,” added Melody De Los Santos in another Facebook comment.
The city did look at other in-town options, including the municipal airport grounds on the far south end of Glenwood Springs and city-owned property along Devereux that is to become the future home of the city’s electric utility department.
“Nothing seemed to work as well as combining everything out at the landfill,” Public Works Director Robin Millyard said.
According to Lloyd, the drive time to the airport from the existing recycle center and back was compared with the drive to and from the landfill, located 4 miles west of town via Interstate 70 and Garfield County Road 134. Given multiple traffic lights and, depending on the time of day, traffic congestion headed to the south end of town, the landfill actually won out, he said.
Others have suggested the confluence area near downtown Glenwood be considered for a new recycle center. But the city wants to keep its options open for a mix of commercial and residential development and various public amenities, including a riverwalk parkway leading to Two Rivers Park on the former sewer plant property.
The decision to move the landfill was also informed by a September presentation to City Council by Scott Eden, owner of Mountain Waste & Recycling, which handles the city’s recyclable materials and transports them to a sorting facility in Eagle County.
“People really need to understand that it actually costs two times as much to collect, transport and process recyclables as it does to put them in the landfill,” Eden told the Post Independent.
MWR takes the materials it collects to the closest sorting facility located 45 miles away at the Eagle County Landfill. Even there, the materials must be presorted, he said. The closest single-stream collection facility that doesn’t require presorting is in Denver.
“We all want to do the right thing and recycle, but it comes with a cost,” Eden said.
While the short-term cost to recycle is more expensive, the long-term cost of not diverting a significant portion of the waste stream is even more expensive as landfills max out and have to expand, if that’s even possible, Eden also explained.
At the same time, the return on the investment in terms of finding markets for recyclable material is constantly fluctuating and is currently trending downward for just about everything except aluminum, he said.
“We actually divert more here in the Roaring Fork Valley than the rest of Colorado,” Eden said, adding that central collection facilities are becoming rare, especially those offered at no cost to people using the drop-off service.
“People should realize the value of having a free drop-off, wherever it is,” he said. “The city is providing a service, and paying a pretty penny to do it.”
According to Millyard, the city has spent $117,352 this year to operate the recycling center, not including $20,800 for a part-time attendant. The city has also collected $43,686 from fees charged for taking electronics.
In 2015, the recycle center collected 17,000 cubic yards of recyclable materials that otherwise would have ended up in the landfill, Lloyd said.
“That’s equivalent to 567 trash trucks,” he said.
The city also made $62,000 off of its compost operation at the landfill, which benefits from slickboard containers and other compostable materials that are collected at the recycling center.