Sheek: New guidelines for recycling in Cortez

Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 7:25 PM
Mayor Karen Sheek

Recently Colby Earley, the city’s Recycling Coordinator, made a presentation to Cortez City Council on changes in the city’s recycling program.

Why the changes? In August, China announced to the World Trade Organization that it would no longer accept “loathsome” foreign garbage because of the damage and contamination to its own environment.

Since approximately 60-90 percent of U.S. recyclables were being shipped to China, this ban has already begun to negatively impact recycling in this country. A glut in the U.S. market has driven down prices for recyclables and resulted in a much more competitive market. A program that has long run in the red is now becoming even more expensive to provide.

Because any recycling program requires an awareness and support from all members of the community to maximize its potential, I thought, with the holidays approaching and all the extra disposable materials they bring, this might be a good time to focus on recycling.

I visited with Colby to learn more about the city’s efforts and what residents need to know to do their part. I also took a field trip to the county landfill, where I spent part of Saturday morning with Shak Powers, Montezuma County landfill manager, getting a guided tour of the facility and learning about the county’s recycling efforts.

Both the city and county are trying to be good environmental stewards, but it is becoming an increasingly uphill battle. Cortez has budgeted about $400,000 in 2018 for garbage disposal, which includes recycling fees that involve more than simply dumping these items in the landfill.

Trash disposal is not only an environmental issue; it also has a tremendous financial impact.

Cortez has been recycling since July 1991; over time expanding the types of recyclables collected. The city provides each residence with up to two green recycling bins with weekly pickup at the front curb – even if your trash is collected in the alley (call 565-7320 if you need a second bin). The city will collect sorted materials from additional bins, but residents must provide these. Recycling bins are also located at the service center.

The city has a “source-separated” recycling program which means that recyclables are separated before delivery to the landfill, resulting in a more desirable (translation: more marketable) product. According to Powers, “The city recycling department is doing a really good job of providing clean recyclables.”

So, what can you do to help? Begin by learning exactly what materials the city recycles. Go to and type “recycle” in the search box on the left side of the page.

Cardboard mix, mixed glass, aluminum cans, tin/steel and ferrous metals (it’s recyclable if a magnet sticks), office paper mix, and type 1 and type 2 plastics are accepted. Because of a recent cost increase, the city will no longer take newsprint.

It also does not accept plastic bags – return these to Walmart or the grocery stores. Better yet, take your own sacks when grocery shopping to reduce landfill materials.

Materials must be clean. Rinse food and plastic containers, disposing of lids, and discard grease-soaked materials like pizza boxes, napkins, or wax-coated boxes as they will contaminate an entire bale of cardboard or paper if included.

Whether using your curbside bin or the recycling bins at the service center, carefully separate materials, especially the Type 1 from the Type 2 plastics. Failure to do so can contaminate the entire bin with the result that the materials will not be accepted for recycling. Three paper grocery bags fit nicely into the bins. I put office paper mix in one; Type 1 plastics plus metals in another; Type 2 plastics and paper board products in the third, and broken down cardboard boxes slips into the side of the bin.

Keep recyclables dry, as wet paper or cardboard is unusable.

Karen Sheek is the mayor of Cortez, a position elected by Cortez City Council members. Reach her at or during her office hours from 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of the month.