The Crestone Eagle • November, 2021

Nov. 15 is America Recycles Day—a look a local recycling

by Avê Doering

“One of the good news stories of our time: Instead of a waste problem, we have a resource opportunity.”  –Ecocycle Solutions Hub

Monday, November 15 is America Recycles Day, and I’d like to propose that we get together to see just how resourceful this community can be! Come with your whole family to the Old Schoolhouse in town and participate in creating a community-wide, upcycling art project.  Perhaps having a little fun together we can shift the way we think about “waste”, get to know each other a bit better, and come to some consensus about how to make the most of all that we have.

As long-time residents can attest, it’s been an interesting road for recycling here in Crestone and across the San Luis Valley.  Many locals agree that we need to be responsible with our use of materials; however, it hasn’t always been easy or even clear just how to go about doing so. From our small population and remote location, to state oversight and landfill violations, to the closure of recycling dropoff in Salida, to the passing of dear and committed community members—there have been a number of bumps and curves along the way. 

Today, thanks to the Saguache Board of County Commissioners, single stream recycling is now available for our community.  That means that “co-mingled” items including paper, cardboard, aluminum, plastic and glass can be collected together and placed in the recycling receptacle at the Saguache County Landfill at a rate of $6 for up to 200lbs.

Sounds like good news, right?  Problem solved, and on to the next.  Sure, that is . . . until logical questions arise like, (1) “how do we get it there?” (2) “where does it go after?” and the all-time favorite question, (3) “is it truly beneficial?”.  

With the intention of benefiting the whole community, this article is meant to open up the recycling discussion with you and your close neighbors by providing relevant and up-to-date information as well as prompts for deeper consideration.  If we are to create a lasting solution—one that truly respects all—it must be informed from diverse points of view.  So our collective participation at this time is both necessary and appreciated.

A little research into the three questions above uncovered the following: 

There is limited access to recycling collection service here in Crestone with only one service provider, Eddie High, serving about 100 customers.

It’s 48 miles round trip from downtown Crestone to the County recycling drop off location out on CR 55 with both paved and dirt access roads.

Once received at the Saguache recycling facility, materials are hauled, via semi truck, by MDS Waste and Recycle (out of Creede) to Altogether Recycling Facility (in Denver).  

Altogether (was/is) regarded as a “best in class” processor of recyclables for reuse through a combination of AI machinery and human labor.  Ownership of this facility has recently changed from Alpine Disposal to GFL Environmental Inc. (a company with roots stretching from North Carolina to Canada).

As of October 25, the Google listing for Altogether Recycling says “temporarily closed” so it’s unclear what that means for us.  Perhaps you can find out more by searching online or making a quick call.

In terms of considering what kind of benefit recycling truly can have for our community, there’s much yet to be determined.  It all depends on what we each choose to do about materials that flow through our bodies, our homes, our neighborhoods, and our local businesses.  Can we choose more local goods that need less “shelf stable” packaging?  Can we create local refill stations and door-to-door services for things like milk and cleaning supplies that reuse our own durable vessels?  Can we upcycle available materials right here in Crestone and create green jobs and value added goods?  Can we respect the rights of nature, and acknowledge that all life deserves access to clean land, air and water?  Essentially, can we find creative ways to live together that are more beautiful?  

There are so many inspiring examples of communities coming together to do just this—each in their own unique ways.  Check out Kamikatsu, Vancouver, Flanders, Cappanori, Thiruvananthapuram, Ecocycle, and Bea Johnson.  Let’s continue to find our way together on November 15.  More details on timing and activities will be posted on community boards leading up to the gathering.  Cheerfully, your neighbor.