Aspen, Colorado, phases out single-stream recycling at drop-off

Aspen, Colorado, phases out single-stream recycling at drop-off

City moves to source-separated collection in response to rising recycling costs.

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Aspen (Colorado) City Council has decided to phase out single-stream recycling services at the Rio Grande Recycling Center, which is free to use for residents and businesses. Costs to continue single-stream pickup services at the center in 2020 would have increased from $250,000 to $560,000 or more, according to an online report by Aspen Times.

At the city council meeting Monday, Liz Chapman, the city’s environmental health and sustainability specialist, said proposals from haulers came in higher than expected because of  “complexities and rising costs of the recycling market.” One proposal to pick up, sort and haul recyclables from the center came in at $750,000, the report says. Council said recycling services could cost up to $1 million once costs from the city's yard waste composting program and public education campaign were factored in.

Rather than close the recycling center, council has decided to move toward source-separated collection at the center, where cardboard, glass, metal and yard trimmings will be collected in separate bins and shipped directly to facilities that sell or process the materials, the report says. Source-separated collections will cost the city between $225,000 to $450,000, plus costs to staff the recycling center and to launch a public education campaign about the recycling changes.

Municipal recycling costs have been rising across the country because of low commodity prices and higher processing costs. Municipalities have reported an increase of haulers renegotiating or proposing new recycling contracts that reflect the cost increases. The pricing increases have had a big impact on small rural communities that don’t have the infrastructure to recycle materials within their county or state. Glass is the only collected material that is recycled within Colorado, according to another report by Aspen Daily News.

February, Pitkin County, Colorado, notified Aspen it would no longer provide $250,000 in funding to help support operations at the recycling center following the county's move to curbside recycling. Haulers in Aspen provide curbside recycling services; however; only 20 percent of residents and businesses participate, the report says.

The city had planned to continue single-stream recycling through 2020; however; the unexpected cost increases led the council to make an immediate decision. The council says it hopes the public education outreach will reduce contamination at the center and encourage more residents and businesses to participate in the curbside recycling program.