Tribune Opinion: The recycling drama

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Dumpsters, garbage cans and recycling cans, some overflowing or surrounded by additional bags, that once belonged to Northern Colorado Disposal, Inc., sit along Greeley streets and alleys Tuesday afternoon waiting for Waste Managment to collect them after their recent buyout of NCD. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)

In recent weeks, there has been an outcry from the residents of Greeley about the state of trash pickup during a transition of service from Northern Colorado Disposal to Waste Management.

Caught in this transition was the closure of a recycling center in Greeley, and recycling issues have been caught up in an economic glut. Bunting Disposal owner Bryan Bunting summed up the problem best: “It doesn’t make sense to get into financially,” he said. “You always have to have someone there to monitor it because people throw whatever they want in there.”

Bunting picks up recycling sends it to Waste Management’s Fort Collins facility, which charges Bunting for the service.

“They used to pay us for it, and then they quit paying us for it, and now they charge us for it,” Bunting said.

Windsor still offers recycling services, while Greeley residents can take their recycling to a disposal facility in Ault, but the problem is also an example of the challenges facing recycling. This isn’t just a local problem, but an international one.

Last year, China stopped accepting foreign trash, most of recycling, which was in turn never recycled. The New York Times summed up the issue this way: China announced last summer that it no longer wanted to import “foreign garbage.” Since Jan. 1, 2018, it has banned imports of various types of plastic and paper, and tightened standards for materials it does accept.

Waste disposal companies across the country are now wrestling with what to do with recycling. China’s biggest problem with the recycling is so much of it was contaminated. Again here’s Brian Bunting to encapsulate the issue: “Make sure there are no half-beers,” he said. “When we pick up at the college, that’s the worst. They have half a beer in there and it dumps out, and liquid is everywhere. They throw away half a plastic jar of mayonnaise. Everybody needs to keep everything clean and take the lids off.”

Another issue is the absence of leadership on the matter on the local level. The Greeley City Council said it had no interest in opening a new facility — citing high costs — and didn’t seem all that interested in discussing it further.

“I know that there’s been some discussion in the city that the city should be taking responsibility for this recycling, and having looked at this in quite a bit of research that’s available right now, globally, recycling is a nightmare,” City Councilman Robb Casseday said. “So I’m going to suggest that we tell our citizens at this time it’s not even a discussion.”

Not only is recycling a nightmare, but waste disposal in general is a nightmare — as we have seen in recent weeks — and not trying to help solve this issue seems counterproductive. We should be at least discussing how to make this work, through better education on reducing waste, or through other programs.

The last thing we want to see are landfills that are filled to the rim faster because we don’t have a solution, but we better start thinking about one.

— The Tribune Editorial Board



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