Ask Eartha: Trash and Recycling Service Changes Could Be Coming to Summit County

A forklift picks up recycled cardboard at the Summit County landfill, Nov. 15, 2017, in Dillon. The landfill is expected to close in 2056.
Hugh Carey Archive/Summit Daily News

Dear Eartha, I live here in the county and own a small business. My neighbor told me about recent recycling forums and changes in garbage collection. What should I know? Can residents submit comments?

The forums you refer to took place over the past two weeks when the High Country Conservation Center informed residents of changes that may be occurring in local garbage and recycling collection. Some forums were for residents, and others focused on business. The good news is that both presentations have been recorded and you can watch them at There’s also a poll where, yes, you can submit feedback. As with all public processes, your feedback is important!

In order to submit feedback, it is important to understand what these new programs are and which one might apply to you. Before we get into the details, let’s cover some basics.

Why act on waste?

The Summit County landfill is scheduled to close in 2056. It may seem like a long way off, but you don’t just close a landfill and start trying to figure out where the trash is going. Can you imagine how much more expensive waste service will become if we have to transport trucks full of waste over a few mountain passes every day? And besides, it’s our trash can. Who’s to say that another community would even want (or have room) to accept it in their own landfill.

The short story is that our community needs to start planning now. This is where the two programs offered — pay as you throw and universal recycling — come into play. The City of Vail has doubled its recycling rate with the programs, which means they save a lot of space in the landfill. And research has shown that these programs cause people to waste less overall.. That’s pretty powerful, especially in a world where so much of what we buy is designed to be used once.

Pay as you spin

If you use less water and heating at home, your bills are lower. Pay as you throw offers the same savings for garbage services. It’s simple: the less you throw away, the less you pay. Recycling service is included for anyone with a bin service, which means it’s easy to throw away less and recycle more.

As part of a pay-as-you-go program, residents will be offered three sizes of bins for garbage collection. The smallest bin will cost the least and the price will increase for medium and large size bins. The best part? Recycling will be included with all trash can services. And residents can continue to use the same garbage collection service they already have.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that pay-as-you-throw only applies to residents who use individual bins or carts for curbside garbage collection. If you are a resident who uses a dumpster, switch to Universal Recycling.

The estimated start date for pay-as-you-go is early 2023.

Universal recycling

Many businesses, apartment dwellers and visitors want to recycle. Unfortunately, recycling isn’t even offered to residents of many condos and other properties that use dumpsters for garbage collection. Universal recycling is just that – recycling is available at every business, condo, or property that has trash service.

Universal recycling will apply to businesses of all sizes, as well as residents who share dumpsters. If this applies to you, your business or property manager will also need to have a recycling service. And for businesses that have a liquor license – including restaurants and bars – glass recycling collection will be required.

The estimated start date for Universal Recycling is early 2023, with another one to two years for businesses and properties to phase in the program.

It is possible that I have created more questions than answers. And that’s why I encourage you to visit and learn more about the two programs. Watch the recordings, take the survey, and email staff at [email protected] with questions.

Your contribution is essential to make both programs work for our community.

Rachel Zerowin

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