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My personal recycling adventure

Locations: Opinion Published

1970: Eugene, Oregon — glass only. We took our children to a warehouse, remains of which were concrete walls. The town provided goggles. We could fling glass bottles and jars against the wall and the town eventually picked up the broken glass. What fun!

Late ‘80s: Carbondale — newspaper and shredded office paper only. CRMS had a big empty shed and allowed me and my students to pick up shredded paper from Alpine Bank and newspapers, which neighbors put out on designated days until the shed was full and then truck them to a huge waste container in the Carbondale Town lot and deposit them. It sat there for a few days and then was hauled away and  the next deposit was planned

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2015: Carbondale, Basalt, Glenwood Springs, Pitkin County Landfill — recycling options expanded. At Garfield County’s collection center in Glenwood, one could separate cardboard, paperboard containers, books magazines and paper, glass, appropriate metals, and designated plastics and deliver them to bins  on weekdays. A similar service was available in Basalt. 

For the last three years, I have used the center at Willits sponsored by Basalt and Pitkin County. Currently all is commingled except corrugated cardboard.

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I have recycled there as part of my volunteering at Carbondale’s Near New, a service of the Rebekah Lodge. I work with an outstanding team. Metal is dealt with separately. Even though we have many signs on the building that say we are not a recycling center, our community (hopefully for repurposing) leaves us many good books but also books which only a very rare customer might want such as old yearbooks or encyclopedias. Those with a variety of paper such as file folders are recycled. Room is limited and fortunately Pitkin County Landfill takes books which we cannot store or shelve but which are shipped   to eastern Colorado. These are re-used or re-purposed.

2020: Now we have a problem. I summarize from an article which appeared in the Aspen Daily News: “Basalt recycling center to close at the end of January.“ The Waste Management facility has to double the cost of operating the center. Pitkin County once helped the town of Basalt pay but will no longer do so. Fortunately, there is the option of curbside recycling.

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“Curbside service is available to everyone in Pitkin County and almost everyone in the Eagle  County portion of the valley but it comes at a price that many folks aren’t willing to pay.” (Carbondale now has curbside service as well with what seems to me a very reasonable scale especially as an economy built-in recyclables develops.)  The article continues: “According to Mark Hobitzell, a business service coordinator with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment: ‘Glass in Colorado almost all goes to Rocky Mountain Bottling in Denver and then on to Miller Coors in Golden and is back on the shelf as a bottle in 30 days. 

Almost all metal stays domestic and is getting recycled at regional plants. Clear/translucent plastic milk jugs have domestic markets and typically end up being hand pulled from lines and shipped to become synthetic wood decking (such as Trex).Corrugated cardboard typically has markets as long as it is not contaminated by the grease in pizza boxes.”

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With thanks to our local governments for their efforts to address problems of keeping bad stuff out of the landfill and the efforts of businesses to help us dispose of waste responsibly (all the while thinking of the ultimate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as soil building through composting) we are making progress as communities. But perhaps it is time for all of us on an individual scale to become more responsible in our consumption and remember the first R — reduce — and then put our imaginations to work for reuse and recycle.

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