Lack of recycling vexes Fraser Valley businesses
December 7, 2007
If someone even says the “R” word, scowls appear. People shake their heads.
Recycling. It’s become a thorn in the side for many Fraser Valley residents, and every bottle thrown into the trash is a stab in the heart.
Restaurants and bars in the Fraser Valley are in the same boat ” most of their waste is going straight to the Granby Landfill. Glass and cardboard, two items produced in abundance commercially, aren’t being recycled in many establishments throughout Fraser and Winter Park.
It’s not that owners don’t want to recycle, but without a drop-off site in the Fraser Valley, transporting recyclables to the bins at the Granby Landfill is time-consuming and costly. Even if the drop-off sites were brought back to Fraser, many restaurants generate too much trash to be able to use them efficiently ” and without filling them overnight.
Many major restaurants have given up.
“It’s overwhelming with the amount of cardboard we have,” said Chris Moore, co-owner of Fontenot’s Fresh Seafood and Grill. “We did out best, but we can’t keep up.”
The restaurant does compact its trash, which takes up less room at the landfill, Moore pointed out. And if the Fraser drop-off sites were started again, he’d consider taking his glass there.
But it isn’t economically feasible for his businesses to transport any recyclables to Granby.
“It’s a tough one for restaurants,” he added.
The Untamed Southwest Grill in Winter Park also doesn’t recycle. Al Sapien, general manager, said recycling is too expensive, and a huge hassle. At the Untamed Grill at Grand Elk, however, Sapien said employees gather recyclables themselves and bring them to the nearby recycling bins at the landfill. He would like to do that in Winter Park, he added.
“It’s something we’d love to change. There’s so much to be recycled in restaurants,” Sapien said. “We’re one of the busiest restaurants in town, so (the amount of recyclables) is huge.”
If there were a more organized, cost-effective way for restaurants to recycle, Sapien would be on board, he said.
Currently, the only company offering pick up for recyclables is Valley Recycling, owned by Karen Bloomfield. Bloomfield’s customers include Cooper Creek Square and Winter Park Resort, for whom she still picks up cardboard and bottles. The resort, for instance, has recycling bins that during a busy month are emptied twice a week. According to an invoice from February 2007, the resort paid $3,200 for a month of recycling.
But for Bloomfield’s individual customers, recycling glass has become unprofitable, she admitted, and if businesses don’t have roll-offs, or bins, she is unable to lift the heavy 55-gallon barrels they fill with bottles every week. She is no longer taking on new customers for glass pick-up, she said.
“It’s so heavy to move. And it costs me to get rid of it,” Bloomfield said. “I’m still doing it at some places, but … Glass is a problem because it’s heavy, and worthless.”
The Crooked Creek Saloon in Fraser no longer recycles its bottles, though it still has its cardboard picked up by Bloomfield. Same goes for Deno’s Mountain Bistro.
At the Crooked Creek, owner David Pratt said he used to have three to five barrels of bottles filled every week for Bloomfield to pick up. Now he’s throwing them in the trash bin.
“I just don’t have any other choice. I don’t want to be running up to Granby with bottles ” it’s just not feasible, and I can’t hire someone to do it,” Pratt said.
If someone stepped up to the plate, he added, he would certainly be a customer. He understands the county and town managers are working on a plan for recycling, but things aren’t moving fast.
“If anyone has the energy to do a co-op, I’ll join it. I’d like to participate in something like that, where all the restaurants hire someone to pick up their bottles and go to Granby … It’s just an idea,” Pratt added.
“But, we do need some kind of coordinated plan for the whole county.”
Fontenot’s also tried to use Valley Recycling for a while, Moore said, but the restaurant would fill up the bins “basically overnight.” He has considered transporting the trash to Granby himself, “but it’d be so expensive and difficult to get it all out there,” Moore said. “You’d have a truckload every day.”
Some restaurants and bars estimate they generate roughly 100 cases of bottles per week during the busy season. With 24 bottles to a case, that’s 9,600 bottles per month that get thrown into the landfill.
Liz McIntyre, a local recycling advocate, explained that glass is a tough material to recycle because it has to be handled carefully. It is easy to contaminate, she said, and isn’t worth much. It has to be kept clean until it is taken to the Front Range to be recycled, she added.
“You pay a lot to transport (the glass). It’s a pain … but it’s a huge energy savings if it can be recycled. It really cuts down on the amount of electricity that a glass-making plant has to use,” McIntyre said.
Glass isn’t the only problem, she pointed out. Restaurants also produce tons of food waste, which has prompted some cities to establish compost sites. Food waste is a source of methane, which is a greenhouse gas, she explained. The Granby Landfill does not have a compost site.
McIntyre is working with the county and the towns toward a solution for recycling. She pointed to other counties ” such as Pitkin, Eagle and Larimer ” which have established solid-waste programs funded by tipping fees through their landfills. The fees help fund services that include recycling and dealing with household hazardous wastes, slash, batteries and construction debris.
Whether that would work in Grand County, McIntyre plans to do more research on the subject. Until a solution is found, however, she understands the frustration among residents and business owners.
The frustration is apparent ” and growing.
“I would love to recycle, but it’s not economically feasible with the infrastructure available today,” said Jeff Williams, co-owner of the Winter Park Pub. “We need a recycling service that would pick up at our location.”