Perhaps this will be a case where the children will lead us.
Local high school students, and a few progressive-minded government officials, deserve credit for trying to reinvigorate local recycling efforts.
The high-schoolers are helping to meet a longstanding need in Glenwood Springs: an in-town recycling collection center.
Such a center is available at the city’s landfill, but that’s out in South Canyon. That makes it inconvenient, and means burning up some gasoline in the process of being conservation-minded. And while curbside recycling is provided in town, that doesn’t meet the needs of everyone.
Efforts to create an in-town center bogged down before over the question of location. But Glenwood Springs City Council member Dan Richardson kept pressing the matter, and Glenwood Public Works Director Robin Millyard came up with an appropriate site by the new City Hall. Meanwhile, the Glenwood Springs High School Impact Club, along with some Yampah Mountain High School students, pushed hard for the center, promising to help out with it.
So City Council approved the center, which could be up and running sometime in May, and will accept office paper and magazines, cans and bottles, newspapers and cardboard.
But area recycling efforts are still far from what they could be. Garfield County offers little recycling at its Anvil Points Landfill. Rural residents may or may not receive recycling service from private trash haulers, depending on where they live. Rifle currently has neither curbside recycling nor a recycling center, which has left its recycling-willing residents in a bad spot ever since “Mr. Recycling,” Elmer Blackmore, retired from the salvage business there.
The trouble with the recycling business is that it’s not easy to make a profit. For some materials, it costs more to collect, sort and transport them than their scrap value.
But that doesn’t mean recycling isn’t worth it. Not only does the effort add to the lifespan of landfills, it reduces the need for mining, logging and otherwise producing the raw materials that we consume so readily as a nation. Many of these materials are derived at an environmental cost, and some are finite resources.
It costs money to run recycling programs, but what can’t be recovered from purchasers of recycled materials can be added to tip fees at landfills. Conveniently, doing so only adds to the incentive to recycle instead.
Garfield County Commissioner John Martin believes that private enterprise should handle recycling, given the costs involved. But relying on private enterprise alone leaves gaps in local recycling.
Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt, who formerly directed Valley Resource Management, a local nonprofit effort to promote recycling and solid waste management, would like to see a recycling center in each community. She also considers recycling to be a function of owning a landfill.
We agree. At the same time, it’s the responsibility of each community not to abuse its center, but instead to follow the rules regarding what goods are accepted, keep the site clean and not dump nonrecyclables.
In Glenwood’s case, just how such abuse can be prevented has yet to be determined. Self-policing by those who wish to enjoy the privilege of having a recycle center may be part of the answer. Some level of staffing may also be required, and where it would come from remains a question mark. Some city staffing may be unavoidable if it is to succeed.
Students already plan to design the center and make signs for it. It also has been suggested it could serve as a place for kids going through teen court to perform community service sentences. If adequate adult supervision took place, this could provide a source of labor for policing the center, while also helping instill a proper ethic in young people, so they don’t grow up with the idea that these facilities can be treated as mere dumps.
That attitude drives up the cost of running these centers and invites opposition to them, which has resulted in the loss of some centers in the past. That has been unfortunate. As children would be the first to tell us, we need more recycling, not less.
– Dennis Webb, News Editor
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