The Four Corners Recycling Initiative is experiencing some growing pains.
But that is a good problem to have because it means people are recycling, said Eric Freels, board chairman for the organization.
Still, the program that focuses on recycling cardboard, paper, and metals is at a point it needs to expand operations to keep up with demand.
“The community embraces recycling and expects opportunities to do so. Now they want to recycle plastic and glass as well,” Freels said during a presentation to the Montezuma County commissioners.
The successful program has been self sustaining since an initial $100,000 start-up grant was awarded in 2008 from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.
There are public drop-off centers at the Dolores School campus, Mancos Schools, Dolores Public Lands Office, the Montezuma County landfill, Cedar Ridge subdivision and Roundup Junction. Bins are divided to take paper, cardboard and metals.
The group partners with landfill and Baker Sanitation, which picks up the bins twice per month. Cardboard and paper are delivered to the landfill to be baled. Metal is delivered to Belt Salvage. When enough is gathered the different materials are loaded onto semi trucks and sold on the open market.
“The program pays for itself through the sale of commodities and the work of our volunteers,” Freels said. “For a 22 ton truck we bring in $2,000.”
In 2008, its first year, the program recycled 25 tons of material. In 2010 it climbed to 160 tons, and in 2013 the amount was 220 tons recycled.
“We’re almost maxed out,” Freels said. “It is a bittersweet problem to have. We need pick-ups every week to keep up with demand, but we are not there yet.”
Recycling has become so popular, that the organization’s recycling bins have been overflowing in Mancos and Dolores. A fundraising effort is underway to raise $2,800 for an additional pick-up from Baker Sanitation.
Since the operation is a net-zero gain, there is no funding for expanding the program, Freels said. Overhead costs of recycling fees, pick-up costs, and transportation costs to get the product to market leave nothing left over.
“We are not subsidized like Durango’s program,” Freels said. “And Telluride has more capitol to eat the costs.”
“Our plan is to continue,” Freels says. “We would like to partner with the county and figure out how to come together with the goal of supporting the recycling program” to meet public demand.
Landfill manager Deb Barton said the landfill could separate for glass, and obtaining a glass crusher would be beneficial if it were used locally in order to avoid prohibitive transportation costs.
“It has to be a value-added product, such as using it in concrete, as a soil amendment or in a sand product,” she said.
A hub-and-spoke system where recyclers from the region deliver material to a central processing area might work for this region.
“Most recycling operations are subsidized and this group should be commended for not doing that. But now it is time to have the discussion on how to meet what people want,” Barton said.
Freels, a wildlife biologist, is relocating to Grand Junction, and will step down from the board.
“We’re proud of what we have done. People appreciate the opportunity to recycle. Now they are saying why not recycle plastic and glass as well?”
The commissioners said they would be willing to listen to specific proposals. Go to 4cornersrecycles.org/ for more information.