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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Up Bear Creek / 21feb26013 / Regional Recycling at Critical Juncture

Recycling bales at SMARTS Park (San Miguel Area Resource-Recovery Transfer Station)

After taking up Jonathan Greenspan’s invitation to visit Telluride's SMARTS Park single-source recycling center in Illium, I have to say I was impressed. No, it wasn’t a slick, glitzy sight. It’s an industrial park, and sorting trash into recyclable components is anything if not messy. Plus, citizens regularly drop off all manner of unwanted trash after hours, some of them thinking it’s a county facility, which it is not.

But clearly it’s an essential public service. If our county and the communities of Telluride and Mountain Village are serious about reducing carbon impacts, keeping our waste stream out of the landfills and re-using what can be salvaged is critical. And it’s a focus for more than a handful of jobs – scarce commodities in this economic climate.

Still, trying to do the right thing environmentally is expensive and difficult in our isolated region, far from major shipping points. There’s a chance to get some major grants to upgrade our capabilities for recycling in the region, but the community needs to figure out how much it wants to deal with trash as a major focus of reducing our carbon footprint

Greenspan has put a lot of time and money into keeping our recycling options open in the region. But it’s not going to survive without financial support from county citizens.

We’re at a critical juncture in our ability to do more than landfill the waste we produce in this county. And we’re also at the most dismal point in 30 years for local government funding. How we’re going to afford to do the right thing is by no means certain. But to take a step backwards in regional recycling would be a terrible shame, even as we claim to want to work towards a sustainably resilient mountain community.

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