As a member of the Board of Directors of the High Country Conservation Center, I share this important information with all members of the Summit County community and beyond in the hope that we resolve this critical community infrastructure crisis that we are currently facing. The link to the letter to the editor from the Board in today’s Summit Daily News is at the bottom if this post.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about this important issue and please reach out to your Town Council and County Commissioners to implore them to take the appropriate action to preserve the future of sustainability in our community.

Kindest regards,

Garratt

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As you may be aware,
there is a potential recycling and solid waste crisis looming in Summit
County. You, like many of us, may be asking yourself questions like:
What is this waste ordinance everyone is talking about? What is
happening with recycling in our community? Is recycling “going away”
soon? How could that possibly happen?

Unfortunately, there is a conflict between
our community’s passion for recycling and our waste haulers’ focus on
profits. This issue began with Timberline Disposal, LLC, one of three
primary waste haulers in Summit County, when Timberline made a business
decision to take our community’s waste to a Front Range dump rather than
to our local Summit County Resource Allocation Park (SCRAP).

Timberline’s profit-based decision will
result in a projected $1-million loss to Summit County’s solid waste
revenue in 2017. Because solid waste revenue funds local recycling
programs, there are substantial budget cuts proposed in 2017; including
closing the Frisco and Breckenridge recycling centers, discontinuing
High Country Conservation Center’s recycling education funding of
$90,000 per year, and cutting all SCRAP capital expenditures.

This budget shortfall has implications far
beyond recycling, with impacts affecting our entire solid waste system
and the future of all SCRAP operations, including the landfill. The
county has invested millions of dollars into the SCRAP to meet our
community’s needs. These costs include environmental remediation of the
site before the county took on operations, as well as compliance costs
to ensure protection of our local water and air quality. Because of our
community’s commitment to diverting waste, the county and taxpayers have
also invested in a Materials Recovery Facility (to process recyclables)
and a commercial compost operation. Our SCRAP is one of the most
progressive facilities in the Colorado mountains, and we’re proud of our
community’s recycling and composting accomplishments.

If you’re an avid recycler, you may be
asking why we are advocating for the support of a landfill operation
into the future. Of course, it’s our goal to see less and less trash
going into our landfill. But in our current reality, most of our waste
is still landfilled and until that paradigm shift occurs in our society,
we are going to need a landfill. We need to take responsibility for our
community’s waste and not ship it off to become another community’s
burden. Even when we achieve our goal of zero waste and close our
landfill in the future, there are long-term costs to maintain the
landfill after closure to ensure public safety. This means that in
addition to the SCRAP’s ongoing operating costs, the county must build
up a reserve fund for future landfill closure and compliance costs in
perpetuity. The bottom line is that to continue to divert more waste
away from the landfill, we need to support all of our community’s solid
waste programs.

Timberline and Summit County government
have recently met to discuss potential solutions, and Timberline has
taken trash to the SCRAP again in the past two weeks. We are encouraged
that the county and private haulers are working together to solve this
issue, and we applaud Timberline for once again supporting our local
economy. However, there needs to be a more permanent solution put in
place to ensure our community’s recycling and solid waste future.
Without a municipal ordinance, Timberline could easily begin taking
trash to the Front Range again when the weather becomes more favorable,
making that business model profitable during the summer.

Summit County and local municipalities are
considering adopting ordinances that would require locally generated
waste and recycling to stay in Summit County, allowing those revenues to
support community recycling and composting. Hauling trash more than 70
miles from its source not only takes revenue from our community, but it
also generates vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and burdens other
communities with waste we generated.

So what do we do now? Each of us has the
opportunity to play an important role in deciding how this turns out.
Here in Summit County we can truly affect positive change, or we can
stand by and allow corporate greed (although they would sell it to you
as “free market enterprise”) to trample our decades of cumulative
efforts to protect our environment.

Now is the time to reach out to your local
town councils and county commissioners to ask them to adopt an
ordinance to keep local trash revenues in Summit County supporting our
recycling and solid waste programs. If you are a customer of Timberline
Disposal, please implore them to continue to take your trash to the
SCRAP and check your bills to see if you’ve saved any money as a result
of their decision to take your trash to the Front Range during the past
six months. As a longstanding business in this community, and a past
supporter of HC3, we sincerely hope Timberline will do the right thing
by continuing to support Summit County’s local recycling programs.

In an unrelated development affecting
local recycling, Waste Management recently closed their Silverthorne
recycling site and is now only accepting sorted glass. Now many
Silverthorne residents have lost access to local recycling.
Unfortunately, getting recycling back in Silverthorne isn’t as simple as
passing an ordinance. We need citizens to reach out directly to
Silverthorne Town Council and Waste Management to propose solutions on
this important issue.

This Friday, let your voice be heard at a
community recycling forum. The Summit Daily is hosting a “Let’s Talk
Recycling” Forum on Friday, Dec. 2 at 9 a.m. at the Frisco Community and
Senior Center. Please join the Summit Daily, HC3 and local elected
officials to learn more about this issue, voice your opinion and work
together on solutions. Thanks for getting engaged in this important
community issue.

— Board of directors, High Country Conservation Center