Can the dismal efforts to recycle in the Pikes Peak Region be improved through voluntary participation and market-based approaches?
The members of a citizens' task force in Manitou Springs believe it can.
Three months ago, the organization Manitou Springs Recycles won the blessing of the Manitou Springs City Council to form a Green Ribbon Task Force that would look at ways to boost recycling efforts in the community. The idea for the task force grew out of a symposium at Colorado College in April, where it was reported that Colorado ranks 47th in the nation -- ahead of only Alaska, Montana and Wyoming -- in terms of recycling household waste.
The Pikes Peak region isn't helping boost Colorado's ratings -- while an estimated 19 percent of household waste is recycled statewide, the proportion locally is believed to be only 8 percent.
Currently, curbside recycling is strictly voluntary in both Manitou and Colorado Springs. Curbside trash collection is operated by private waste haulers, most of which offer limited recycling services to customers. Some charge an extra fee for recycling.
After several meetings, members of the Manitou task force are leaning toward keeping recycling voluntary but giving residents and trash haulers incentives to participate.
"We don't want it to be a forced thing," said Della Garelle, who heads the task force. "We want it to be all positive."
What the task force wants to do, she said, is find a trash hauler that's willing to offer extensive, convenient curbside recycling services while actually lowering its overall hauling rates, in return for a guaranteed volume of customers.
Task force members would endorse that trash hauler as a "recommended" vendor and help it secure blocks of customers by recruiting local businesses, schools and perhaps entire neighborhoods of residential customers, Garelle explained.
"We're looking at making it worth the vendor's while," she said.
In addition, task force members want the recommended hauler to operate a community recycling center in Manitou.
Task force members have met with area trash haulers already, and some of them have expressed interest, Garelle said. The goal is to kick off the new program in just a few months.
-- Terje Langeland
This is the fourth story in a series on the 2002-2003 Independence Community Fund recipients.