The Mountain Village Town Council agreed at last week’s meeting that it’s time to move toward a multi-stepped approach to creating a zero waste economy in the region, though no action was taken by the four councilmembers present.
The goal of the zero waste initiative, which is being spearheaded by TNCC, is to reduce the amount of waste leaving the community, and instead create new jobs and business opportunities by using the waste as a resource. So far this program includes a refined recycling program, the building of a composting facility that can process yard trimmings and food scraps, and an overall solid waste system redesign where garbage contracts and rate structures are adjusted to provide incentives for recycling.
Council generally agreed on Thursday that the zero waste initiative is not something that will be completed overnight, but as a multi-stepped process that will ultimately benefit the entire region.
“This is something that is really being looked at by the county, the Town of Telluride and the Town of Mountain Village,” Mountain Village Councilmember Phil Evans said in an interview on Friday. “Right now we are just picking up the ball and are trying to get moving forward on it. I think the key is to buy into the idea and take necessary actions to get where we are a whole lot closer to zero waste and a whole lot more recycling.”
Evans said that one important initiative would be to adjust the rate structure to create an incentive for recycling. “The more you recycle, the less your garbage disposal fees will be,” he said.
Gary Liss & Associates developed the zero waste plan and presented an executive summary to council on Thursday. According to the summary, there are a number of priorities the town should look at first when taking on the initiative. First, a baler and composter need to be purchased, which will decrease the region’s carbon footprint by reducing volumes of waste as well as the miles traveled to haul waste to landfills in Montrose County.
A local resource recovery business, Sunrise LLC, could be an integral part in creating a waste transfer station for the county to use in the zero waste initiative. On behalf of Sunrise LLC, its owner and operator Jonathan Greenspan has already invested in creating the transfer center – something he thinks will bring the zero waste concept to fruition. (Greenspan is also a member of the Mountain Village Town Council but recused himself from Thursday’s discussion. For this article he spoke strictly for Sunrise LLC and not as a councilmember.)
“I am already a resource recovery company,” Greenspan said in an interview on Friday. “I already handle that sort of stuff and it was naturally recognized by the consultants. Having said that, it makes a natural spot for a potential resource recovery yard or a new contemporary transfer station,” he said of Sunrise’s Ilium Valley operation.
“This is one of those few things that everybody can get their arms around and get excited about,” Greenspan added.
According to the summary, if designed properly, a zero waste system can be an economic boon to a community. Direct disposal cost savings at $50 per ton could generate up to $450,000 a year for the region and offset the expanded costs of the initiative.
“The value of the materials currently disposed is over $330,000 each year,” the summary states. “If each of the materials were recovered completely and not thrown away, the benefit to the region would be the combination of the value and avoided disposal costs, or close to $780,000 each year.”
While council showed support for the zero waste initiative, Evans remained cautious of approving a resolution just yet.
“This is a big project,” Evans told council. “The first step is to set a vision, which we do by resolution. Second, we change ordinances as we go through this. I think we could draft a resolution in September and we need to ask staff at the same time to come up with a sense of implications on how we manage this. We need to think about his before we pass a resolution.”
Council is expected to look at a resolution at either the September meeting or later in October.
“I really think the community is ready to leap on board with this,” Evans said.