Sopris Sun Correspondent
They were talking trash at Carbondale’s Town Hall on Monday night, but in the end it all came to little beyond a call for more meetings and more talk.
The town’s Environmental Board (aka E-board) called the meeting to get public input for a proposal to rewrite the town’s trash-hauling ordinance, and possibly to rearrange the entire system of trash pickups and disposal.
But after hearing from several local trash haulers, including a lengthy presentation from Scott Eden, a self-described “professor of garbology” and a part-owner of InterMountain Waste and Recycling in Carbondale, the meeting broke up for lack of time.
There will be more talks, however, after one of the organizers, Jason Haber of the Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE) called for another meeting and further study of what those at Monday’s meeting generally agreed is a complex subject and one that could have serious ramifications beyond decisions about who picks up trash in town, when they do it and where they take it.
Monday’s meeting grew out of a presentation by Haber and E-board member Jason White to the town’s board of trustees in April, about the E-board’s long-standing interest in seeking ways to better manage the garbage that town residents generate.
Haber offered a summary of issues that included assigning the residential trash-hauling business to a single hauler as a way of cutting down on the number of trips through town by trash trucks and reducing road damage, exhaust emissions and noise impacts.
The idea, according to Haber’s list and ideas voiced at the meeting, is to provide a variety of services — regular trash pickup, a greater level of recycling including compost, and pickup of household hazardous waste.
Other topics are to include whether residents would benefit more from a “flat-fee” payment structure. White told the meeting’s attendees that the town has been considering a remake of the trash hauling system for about five years, but that a number of complications arose that derailed the effort until now.
Town Trustee Katrina Byers, appointed as a liaison to the E-board, told those in the room, “I see our waste as an opportunity,” largely to boost recycling as a measure of the town’s commitment to an environmental ethic.
“I think we can put together a really remarkable system,” she declared hopefully.
Others, particularly the professional trash haulers in the room, were more skeptical about the proposed changes.
“You’re going to put me out of business,” said Eden, referring to the idea of putting a single company in charge of everything. He predicted that one of the big national trash companies, such as Waste Management, Inc. (a Texas corporation) would underbid smaller outfits based locally and eliminate them from the market.
“I think everybody should have a choice about who comes to your house to pick up your trash,” said Jackie Bluiss of VIP Trash Services in Glenwood Springs. She also revealed that where recycling is concerned, the only landfill in the Roaring Fork Valley that will accept recycled material, Pitkin County, recently put a cap on the amount of recycled stuff it would take from individual haulers. That forces haulers to take recycled material to other, more distant landfills, which affects everything from fuel consumption to wages for drivers to pollution from truck exhaust pipes.
Another hauler, Don Vandevender of MRI (once known as Mountain Rolloffs, Inc., now called Mountain Refuse, Inc.) shared the concerns mentioned by Bluiss.
“It affects us tremendously,” he said, adding that “we’ve already hit our max” with the Pitkin County dump and are now hauling recycled trash to Eagle County or to the South Canyon dump west of Glenwood Springs.
“It really comes down to human consumption (and) responsibility,” Vandevender continued, suggesting that the only way to improve the recycling situation would be to limit the amount of recycled material that haulers can accept.
“Limit the amount of recycling?” rejoined Dave Reindel, co-founder of Ever Green Events and an E-board member. “That’s ridiculous.”
Instead, he said, “Let’s work upstream” to identify the sources of unnecessary trash — such as packaging materials for consumer goods — and cut down on that.
Karen Eden, part-owner of InterMountain, emphasized that having smaller, local companies doing the work offers the benefit of local offices where customers can connect with a human being on the phone who can quickly address and solve problems.
Scott Eden, in his PowerPoint presentation to the meeting, outlined the many complexities involved in the garbage handling business, pointing out that 60 percent of the waste stream in the U.S., statistically speaking, is food waste.
A number of topics listed by Haber never made it into the discussion, such as the issue of bandit dumping — people illegally putting their trash in Dumpsters that they do not pay for.
Despite a lack of progress toward recommendations on how to proceed, Haber said at the end of the meeting, “I don’t think a minute of this has been wasted time.”
And he encouraged those present and anyone with an interest in the subject, to come to the next meeting, scheduled for 6 to 7:30 p.m. on July 23 at Town Hall and make their thoughts known.