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Curb your enthusiasm for alley recycling

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

George Sterk is among city residents upset that the city will pick up his trash in the alley but not his recycling. “It’s beyond reason why they want to do this,” Sterk said.

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

Durango’s single-stream recycling program has proven popular with the volume of recycling up 76 percent and 3,000 households, or 60 percent of the city, participating.

One enthusiastic recycler was Maureen Clerici, who noticed she was putting out less trash because she could recycle so much more in the way of plastics and cardboard.

But in the last few weeks, she has stopped recycling and “dug in my heels.”

Clerici said that after a city personnel change led to recycling bins in her alley not being picked up, she no longer can participate.

“I don’t have a way to take my trash or my recycling to the front of my house,” she said.

Clerici and other residents don’t understand why the city cannot pick up recycling in the alley as it does with their trash. They say it is too difficult to take their recycling to the street because their garages face the alley and their driveways do not connect to the street. Also, their lots are long and narrow, and the houses in their neighborhood are built too close together.

One accommodating driver for the city of Durango had been picking up their recycling in the alleys until a few weeks ago. He no longer is with the city.

“I suggested they rehire him and put him in charge of the collections department,” said George Sterk, who lives at the corner of 29th Street and East Third Avenue near the popular raft put-in area.

The city driver had accommodated Clerici, too.

Clerici said she understood the driver has been fired “for doing favors for people.”

“I don’t consider it a favor when I am paying for it,” Clerici said in reference to the $3 monthly fee all city residents are charged for recycling.

The city does not comment on personnel matters, but Roy Petersen, director of operations, said, “We had a misinformed driver who picked up recycling from the alley and did not tell his supervisor. He did not tell us.”

Petersen said the city has always picked up recycling from the curb, or the street, even in the previous recycling program.

The city would prefer to pick up trash only from the street, as well, but people have become too accustomed to the alley service.

“There’s no way to back that ship up that I know of,” Petersen said.

Picking up trash and recycling from the street is so much easier, he said.

“Most municipalities with automated trash services and recycling are all curbside,” he said.

“You have to think about it for a second. You’re going down a 20-foot-(wide) alley with an 8½-foot-(wide) truck with 6-foot (automated loader) reach. When you’re out in the street, you have a 30-foot-(wide street), no overhead lines,” Petersen said.

The only neighborhood with alley recycling pickup is East Third Avenue just east of downtown because the street is so congested. This alley recycle pickup area is described by the city as bound on the north by 12th Street; on the south by College Drive; and between the west side of East Fourth Avenue and the alley on the west side of East Third Avenue.

The city did extensive publicity and outreach to make sure people understood that most recycling pickup would be curbside, but officials realize they cannot make everybody happy.

“In some neighborhoods, we have some residents who want it in the alley; others want (pickup) on the curb,” Petersen said. “When you (accommodate both alley and curb), you double your route length.

“If we go down the street and have to turn the corner to go down the alley, we double our costs. We would have to pass those costs on to the residents,” he said.

Clerici is not convinced. She thinks it is in the best interest of the city to go to the alley.

“If recycling is not convenient, it’s a useless service. People are not going to use it,” Clerici said.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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