Dear Editor:

I’d like to address the Archuleta County recycling program, or lack thereof. The county government saw fit to serve the refuse company, At Your Disposal, with a cease and desist order. That action raises a red flag and the question, “Why?”

A short chronicle review: Prior to February 8, 2012, the county’s recycle program was a circa-1960’s effort, but with good intent. That intention was and still is to lower the volume of waste going into the county landfill. The inherent problem with the 1960’s technology is that it was a pain in the rear. You had to maintain multiple bins to separate recyclable items; a bin each for paper, cardboard, tin cans, aluminum cans, and glass had to be further separated by the color — green, brown and clear. Interest faded; it was much easier to toss it into the trash, which then ended up in the landfill. But if you were concerned about landfill space, you made an effort to recycle, and the service was free.

On February 8, 2012, a grand opening of the “new” recycle center was celebrated after the county spent $24,500 on a trailer, built a shelter to house the trailer, and bought a truck to haul the trailer. The “influential champion” behind this project (Clifford Lucero) attended, declaring, “Single-stream recycling is now happening in Archuleta County.” There was a very foreboding comment from the Solid Waste Director at the time (Chris Tanner), “It feels good, as long as it all works.” As long as it works???

Shortly thereafter I brought my recycle items into the “new single-stream” recycle center. Since I am not new to single-stream recycling, image my surprise when my recycle items were sifted and scrutinized, some declared ineligible, and other items were directed to other receptacles. The cardboard and aluminum, which are considered the high-dollar “cream” of recycle, were redirected to different bins, although the term “single stream recycling” means all recyclable items are dumped into one bin. As I concluded my visit, I was informed that I had to pay to recycle. This is not how single stream recycling works. I vowed never to return, and since then all my recycle items have gone to the landfill. At some point, the county will have no qualms about raising taxes to purchase property for a new landfill, all the while claiming they have no idea why it filled up so quickly. Maybe Clifford Lucero fed us a line of “miss-information” and Chris Tanner saw the handwriting on the wall. Recently, with a $136,000 grant, the county has installed a new bailer for $105,000 and added a forklift to its paraphernalia of recycle armament.

After the county’s vast investment in “faux” single stream recycling equipment, I wonder if it is a little embarrassing that the private company At Your Disposal offered “real” single-stream recycling at no cost to county residents? Could it be the cease and desist order had little to do with zoning and is more an attempt to avoid embarrassment?

Gary Woods

This story was posted on April 24, 2014.

6 Responses to Recycling?

  1. littledrummerboy

    April 25, 2014 at 10:07 am

    community residents who choose NOT to make the effort to recycle are the ones who should be funding ALL recycling operations. instead of charging conscientious residents a recycling fee, perhaps there should be a “recycle credit” to encourage and incentivize responsible citizenry. you know, every single piece of plastic you have thrown away since you were born still exists somewhere in a landfill, roadside, or ocean.

  2. LikeRainItSounded

    May 5, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    You really showed them Gary Woods, way to entirely stop recycling instead of just taking a little time to separate materials, pay two bucks (for as much recycling as you can bring – I mean you could save in all up for a year, bring 3 F-250’s full an still only pay $2) and possibly have a conversation with your commissioners about what you would like changed. Making a personal statement since 2012 about the misnomer of “single stream” recycling by throwing recyclable materials in the trash is absurd.

  3. Ken Woods

    May 6, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    While it’s understood that you disagree with Gary’s recycling (or, lack thereof), the questions he asked in the final paragraph are still very valid.

    Perhaps I’m incorrect, but it seems to me that you’ve missed the point of the letter–which has to do less with recycling and more with the politics surrounding waste management.

  4. Pam

    May 7, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Don’t want to reply for him but my thought was Gary was just bringing up old news pointless. It’s 2014 and what happened in 2012 is over move on and use what’s available in 2014. Get on board, questions are really no longer valid if we are all doing are part to make the new program work. Try it worth the $2.00 to do a little separating, not that hard.

  5. LikeRainItSounded

    May 7, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Although I understand that the letter was about the politics surrounding waste management, using and throwing more things away means more stuff ends up in landfills – politics or not.

    I do agree with Gary that the county could have made (and arguably still could) some better decisions regarding waste management here in Pagosa, but continuing to throw away recyclables won’t change much. In fact, as Gary mentions in his letter, needlessly throwing items away will likely lead to a tax increase as the county will have to seek out new land for another landfill more quickly. A more productive route would be to engage in a political discussion with the commissioners via letter or otherwise.

    It is also important to recognize that not all recycling programs work exactly the same, as they are operated locally by unique municipalities. Recycling has to get sorted eventually so it can be turned back into new products whether it be by citizens, waste management employees or machine and if it happens down the line someone has to pay for that service. Public education is also a critical part of recycling programs and is something I do think the county could improve — generally speaking, about 1/3 of the items citizens place in the recycling cannot actually be recycled.

  6. Ken Woods

    May 7, 2014 at 11:04 am

    You said:
    “…. A more productive route would be to engage in a political discussion with the commissioners via letter or otherwise…..”

    I’d offer that there are many methods of political discussion. The one we’re having currently (for instance) is not easily ignored, is public, archived, and referenceable in the future.

    You then said:

    “…Recycling has to get sorted (…) by citizens, waste management employees or machine and if it happens down the line someone has to pay for that service….”

    In my opinion, that is *exactly* the point of the letter—and I’m glad that you agree with Gary on this issue.

    The point you’re missing (perhaps) is that burden (however small) should not be placed on a person and should rather be offloaded onto technology. That was in place with At Your Disposal and their offering of a true single-stream recycling at no cost to county residents.

    We are not luddites–we are living in an age where technology surrounds us in every facet of our lives. Rather than pushing back against it, we should embrace and move forward with that available technology.

    You seem like you’re a reasonably intelligent person, so I offer this: Why would a someone (Gary) offer his opinion (throwing away recyclables) in a public forum, knowing that it would be unpopular if not to spur discussion and inspire change?

    Political change and discourse happens in many ways, and this happens to be one of them.