Recycling options were disrupted in Montezuma County because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but services are up and running again, officials report.
Local recycling is provided by the Montezuma County Landfill, city of Cortez, commercial haulers, Four Corners Recycling Initiative and others.
When the pandemic hit in March, the programs saw a reduction in services, organizers said.
Part of it was initial concerns about the virus contaminating surfaces of commodities handled by sorters, said Cortez recycling coordinator Colby Earley.
The landfill reassigned its sorting staff to other jobs when the pandemic hit to protect workers, said landfill manager Mel Jarmon. It continued to accept recycling only if it was properly sorted by the person bringing it in.
“An area was set up for people to sort it themselves, then we could take it,” he said.
Sorting services have since restarted at the landfill with pandemic precautions.
Curbside recycling in Cortez was reduced by varying degrees for certain commodities from March through July, Earley said, but has since come back to full service.
The recycling drop-off center at the Cortez Industrial Park is open again after being temporarily closed because of pandemic-related issues.
“It’s really great to get things back up and running again,” Earley said. “We’ve ironed out the wrinkles.”
Four Corners Recycling Initiative removed its three collection bins because of the sorting shortage caused by the pandemic, said board member Casey Simpson.
In November, FCRI brought back the free recycling drop-off stations, located at the Dolores Schools campus on N. 12th St., the Mancos bus barn on Ervien Drive and at the Dolores Public Lands Center off Colorado Highway 184.
The all-volunteer organization has no staff and relies on the public to properly separate recyclables. To help cover shipping and operation costs, FRCI sells the collected recyclables to the landfill and relies on donations and funding from a state recycling incentive program.
Recyclables collected by the city of Cortez and FCRI are processed at the landfill, which sorts them, bales them and sells them onto the commodities market. Local recyclables also are sold to vendors such as Belt Salvage.
Reduced recycling capacity during the pandemic caused increased trash collection, officials said, as more recyclables were added to the regular garbage.
Education and understanding what can be accepted, along with proper separation, are key for recycling success, Earley said.
“If a load is too contaminated, it is rejected and goes into the landfill, which defeats the purpose of recycling,” he said.
The landfill accepts No. 1 and No. 2 plastics, aluminum, office paper, newsprint and cardboard. The different types must be cleanly separated and must not be contaminated with garbage or any item not accepted for recycling.
The Cortez recycling drop-off site can take separated aluminum, cardboard mix, tin and steel cans, and No. 1 and No. 2 plastics. They do not accept glass, newspaper or mixed office paper.
Users are encouraged to break down cardboard, crush aluminum cans, be aware of accepted plastic types and separate by type.
As part of its composting program, the landfill will take limbs and green waste at no charge through the end of the year.
City of Cortez curbside pickup will collect glass jars and bottles, aluminum, tin and steel, No. 1 and No. 2 plastics, cardboard, and office paper – no newspaper, books, or phone books. Separate by source.
FCRI bins are divided to accept aluminum cans, No. 1 and No. 2 plastics, cardboard and office paper – no newspaper.
Having to shutdown for eight months has hurt the nonprofit FCRI financially, Simpson said, and the reduced volumes will bring in less state funding. Their annual fall Dining For Recycling fundraiser at participated restaurants also was canceled because of pandemic restrictions. Donations can be mailed to FCRI, PO Box 1538, Cortez, CO. 81321