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Mancos Town Board grapples with recycling solutions

Montezuma County landfill operator urges action
Shak Powers, manager of the Montezuma County landfill, uses a sponge to demonstrate how organic waste soaks up and loses water in a presentation to the Mancos Town Board.

The Mancos Town Board heard several arguments and possible solutions on recycling during a lengthy meeting on Wednesday.

Casey Simpson, a member of the Four Corners Recycling Initiative, said during the public comment period that his group has become inundated with recyclable materials brought in from around the Mancos Valley and as far away as Hesperus. Montezuma County Landfill operator Shak Powers echoed many of Simpson’s concerns in a presentation on waste management in the county, saying he wants to increase the number of materials diverted from the landfill and into recycling. Both called for the town board to step in to improve the state of recycling in the Mancos area.

Simpson said the Four Corners Recycling bins near the Mancos schools campus have been overflowing lately, and the nonprofit doesn’t have enough money to empty them as often as needed.

“The reality of the situation is that Mancos’s recycling is outpacing our revenue stream,” he said.

He also said the renovation going on at Mancos schools will likely force the group to find a new location soon. He asked the board to consider finding a “municipal solution” to the town’s high demand for recycling.

Powers gave a similar presentation to the one he gave the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners in February on waste management in the county and the Colorado Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission’s recycling goals for the next 18 years.

Under the statewide goals, rural areas like Montezuma County would reach a “diversion rate” – amount of waste used for recycling or other purposes rather than sent to a landfill – of 15 percent by 2036. Although the commission doesn’t have the authority to enforce the goal, Powers said more grant money is available to areas that show progress in meeting it. The latest waste audit conducted in Montezuma County showed about a 10 percent total diversion rate in 2017, which is down from 13 percent the year before.

Powers asked the board to help improve that number by passing an ordinance that would require all waste haulers serving Mancos to provide recycling bins or other affordable sorting options to clients. He emphasized the importance of separating trash and recycling before it makes its way to the landfill. Educating the public on the difference between recyclable and nonrecyclable materials is also important, he said.

He cited the city of Cortez, which requires residents to separate their trash and recycling at the curb, as an example of success in this area, and urged the Mancos board to follow it.

“The most economically feasible route we have is to offer source-separated recyclables,” he said.

The Montezuma County landfill has been doing its part, he said, by paying county residents for presorted recyclables since 2015.

Board members plied Powers with questions and applauded his presentation after it was finished. Mayor Queenie Barz said she would direct town staff to immediately start looking into municipal recycling solutions.

Powers said he plans to give similar presentations on the issue in Dolores, Dove Creek and Towaoc over the next few months.

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