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It’s all for one, one for all

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Victor Locke, with the city of Durango, records video of city employees, Dale Cogswell, left, and Joey Medina, distributing recycling containers on Monday while creating a video for City Span 10 about Durango’s new single-stream recycling program.

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

Stop throwing out your aluminum pie tins, toilet paper rolls and clam-shell containers for take-out salads.

All can be picked up curbside when the city’s new system of single stream recycling begins the week of Feb. 4.

Because change is never easy, here are some things to know before the single stream begins to flow.

The biggest advantage of single stream is that residents will no longer have to sort out their plastics, aluminum and cardboard for curb-side pickup. It can all be stuffed randomly into one 60 or 90 gallon container, colored blue to distinguish it from the trash container. Officials still want the plastics and tin cans to be rinsed out, of course.

At public hearings, there has been skepticism about whether residents will produce enough recyclables to fill the containers every week, but the collection of plastics will be expanded from the current collection of types 1 and 2 only to types 1 through 7, which includes many kinds of plastic packaging but still excludes plastic bags and plastic wrap.

The city will also begin accepting paperboard such as cereal boxes, egg containers, toilet paper rolls and 6-pack holders.

As recycling becomes more convenient and comprehensive, city officials expect collections to grow by 30 percent this year to about 4,500 tons of recycled material. It’s equivalent to the amount of trash that 5,500 average Americans will dispose of annually, said Mary Beth Miles, the city’s sustainability director.

In more controversial changes, glass cannot be included in the mix for weekly curbside pickup. Instead, it must be taken separately to community collection sites, expected to be the same as the current drop-off sites for recycling – behind Wagonwheel Liquors, north City Market and the Recycling Center on Tech Drive.

The city is also planning more glass collections sites near major retailers such as Star Liquors or Walmart later this spring as the system gets underway. The containers are supposed to take all kinds of glass – brown, green and clear – so residents will not have to sort their bottles.

As part of the changes, residents must also get used to different collection days for trash and recycling. This is for reasons of space because the automated grippers on the trucks need four feet of clearance to pick up the containers. Trying to pick up both trash and recycling containers on the same street might get too crowded.

The only exception to the different day pickup schedule is Alley Wednesday when the city will pick up trash in the alley as usual while the recycling will be picked up in front of the house at the curb.

County residents and those who take their recyclables directly to the Recycling Center on Tech Drive may encounter $1 fees by late spring to help offset costs of the new system.

City residents will be billed an extra $3 a month beginning in March to offset the costs for single-stream recycling. To get the new containers delivered to the house, residents must call 375-5004 or register online at durangorecycles.com.

The city began with 2,000 containers to give away. As of Thursday, the city was down to 800 containers left to distribute. If the city runs out, residents might have to wait for a second round of distribution later this year.

City officials are most often asked about the segregation of glass from the single-stream container, which is to prevent crushed glass from contaminating the compacted bales of recycled material and preserving its value as a commodity.

The contamination of glass can diminish the value of a ton of recycling from $40 down to $10 or $5, Miles said.

When glass is handled separately, the likelihood of a bottle getting recycled increases from 30 percent to 90 percent, Miles said.

Some complain, however, that other cities manage to include glass in their single-stream recycling. Roy Peterson, the director of operations, responds that larger cities do not have to ship their recycled materials as far for sorting and sale as a commodity.

As an isolated small town, Durango will have to ship its recycling to a regional receiving center, going to whichever place offers the best price each month. Prices can range from $40 to $120 per ton depending on the market.

The segregation of glass is also about helping a Colorado market since Durango ships its glass to a MillerCoors recycling facility in the Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge.

Because the single stream won’t start until the week of Feb. 4, residents are asked to continue to use their old, hand-sorted containers until then.


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