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Recycling glass a big problem for Durango

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

The glass drop-off sites behind Wagon Wheel Liquors and north City Market are getting trashed on a daily basis, city officials said Thursday at a budget workshop.

People are throwing their trash into the collection bins intended only for glass, such as beer and wine bottles.

The city had anticipated only cleaning these sites once a week but now is having to do it daily.

“Monday is the big day,” said Roy Petersen, the city of Durango’s director of general services, because the sites collect so much trash during weekends.

Cleanup costs for the collection sites are budgeted for $40,000 for next year.

Councilor Sweetie Marbury wondered if some people are being vindictive because they don’t like the changes under the city’s new single-stream recycling program.

“They’re (angry), is what you’re saying,” Marbury said to Petersen during his description of the cleanup problem.

City Manager Ron LeBlanc said the city should not be put in the position of having to pick up county residents’ trash “for free.”

As of a few months ago, these two collection sites took all kinds of recycling. Now, all recycling must to go to the city’s Recycling Center on Tech Center Drive unless consumers live in the city and have curbside pickup.

Single-stream recycling has proven popular in the city, with at least 71 percent of city households signed up for curbside pickup.

Officials considered different solutions to dealing with trash in the glass bins, such as putting up more signs at the two collection sites and equipping the collection containers with smaller-hole lids that would accept “beer bottles” only.

Video camera enforcement seems problematic because the camera would need to capture license plates and a clear picture of the violator before citations could be issued.

Glass needs to be collected separately because it can shatter and contaminate the single-stream bales of compacted recycling, which later are unbundled and sold as commodities on the market.

Collected glass is trucked to Wheat Ridge on the Front Range, with the city of Durango netting only about $20 per truckload.

Mayor Dick White suggested that the city eventually might have its own facility that could process all the recycled glass for all of Southwest Colorado and sell it as a commodity.

For the time being, officials agreed that glass is not a money-maker for the city.

“In the present time, it’s the transportation costs that kill you,” White said.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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