Aspen City Council agreed Monday to have the city pay as much as $500,000 to continue the single-stream recycling program for a year at the Rio Grande Recycling Center.
Council agreed that the city should phase in targeted recyclable collection by August 2020.
In the meantime, council will have a larger discussion about the future of the city’s recycling program and how it can grow to include compost and other materials.
Targeted recyclable collection is expected to cost between $75,000 and $200,000 annually.
The city’s move comes after Pitkin County informed the municipal government that it is pulling its funding in August for a hauler to pick up recyclables at Rio Grande Center. That’s because the county moved to mandatory curbside recycling earlier this year.
Liz Chapman, the city’s environmental health specialist, told council that a 2015 study showed that glass, cardboard and co-mingles are recycled the most in the city.
Many apartment buildings, condominiums and businesses in Aspen don’t have enough storage to store materials like massive amounts of cardboard, Chapman said.
That’s a predominant reason why people use the recycling center, she noted.
With the current recycling efforts at Rio Grande, it saves roughly 19 days of life annually in the local landfill, which is filling up quickly and has about 15 years of life left.
A survey conducted between March and May that involved almost 550 responses showed 90% of those asked want the recycling center to continue operating.
“I think it would be incredibly short-sighted of us to discontinue recycling,” Councilman Ward Hauenstein said.
Phasing out single-stream recycling in favor for targeted materials gives the community a year to adjust and gives the city time to set goals for the recycling program, council members agreed.
Mayor Torre said the city needs to increase its capture of recyclable materials in general, noting that 40% of a person’s trash is compostable.
“Waste management is vital in our community and we have to get a greater grip on it,” he said.
The city in 2015 mandated haulers to include curbside recycling but only about 30% of residents use the service.
Council members said that number needs to rise and people need to be reminded they have that service available to them.
Torre said he wants to the city making it easier for people to recycle.
Chapman said she and her department will solicit proposals from vendors to collect, sort and send recyclables to market from the Rio Grande Center for the next year.