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What Happens When Our Regional Recycling Facility Burns Down?

EcoAction Partners

If you have not heard, a recent fire destroyed the Bruin Waste Recycling Plant in Montrose on July 22, 2014.  The exact cause of the fire is unknown, but it started from a specific load of recycling that was brought in. Bruin Waste is contracted with the towns of Telluride, Mountain Village, and Ridgway for curbside residential trash and recycling services.  The Bruin Waste Recycling Plant also accepted recycling material from the City of Montrose.  After the fire, Waste Management agreed to accept the recycling material from the City of Montrose.  

Bruin subcontracts route pick up for Telluride, Mountain Village and our surrounding area (down valley, mesas, etc.) to SUNRISE, INC based in Ilium Valley. Questions have come to me on what is happening with our recycling after the fire. I spoke to Chris Trosper of Bruin Waste, and Jonathan Greenspan of SUNRISE for an update.  

SUNRISE, the company that picks up residential recycling in Telluride, Mountain Village and the surrounding area, continues to provide this service; residents will see no changes in their pick-up service.  But the “single stream” recycling which Bruin offers has posed problems. “Single stream” is recycling lingo for all recycling materials mixed together: glass, plastics, cardboard, and paper. Trosper has been unable to find a provider to take it unsorted due to the glass being included.  Most “single stream” recycling providers do not take glass, because broken glass is dangerous in the sorting process and contaminates other materials (glass shards mixed with plastics, for example).  Additionally there is a very weak market (or no market) for post-consumer glass.  

Because of Bruins’ challenges with finding a provider to take the single stream recycling, SUNRISE agreed to sort and bale the recycling material at their location in Ilium.  Additionally, in the interim Ridgway’s recycling material is also being taken to SUNRISE’s Ilium location. SUNRISE has a baler, which was acquired through a State of Colorado grant to the New Community Coalition, now EcoAction Partners, in 2008 expressly for SUNRISE to operate recycling services in our area.

Thanks to SUNRISE, all of the recycling from the Telluride region and Ridgway is being sorted, baled and sold for future use.  However, it is not without challenges.  According to Greenspan, SUNRISE has incurred costs to accommodate this influx of recycling material including having to move heavy equipment and material in his yard, and hiring workers to sort the material; he still needs additional workers.  There is a build-up of material that has yet to be sorted (425 yards and counting).  “It hasn’t been easy,” said Greenspan.  

Greenspan, a self-described committed environmentalist, continues to have aspirations to turn his Ilium location into SMARTS PARK, a larger regional recycling and resource recovery center funded through a public and private partnership.  He is pointing to this situation as a call for action.  Greenspan would like the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village to publicly endorse SMARTS PARK, which closed in 2013 due to a significant lack of funding, with estimates starting at $250K.  

Meanwhile, Bruin is working diligently to solve the problem.  Trosper has found a new Montrose location with an existing warehouse so Bruin could immediately move in and resume operations. Trosper hopes the new location will be finalized this week.  Insurance funds from the fire are being processed, and if all goes through as anticipated Bruin will be back in business sorting and baling recycling in as early as two weeks.  Bruin is also looking at purchasing some new high tech equipment including a “ballistic sorter” to mechanically separate all “single stream” recycling material in the future.  The ballistic sorter would significantly improve operations and could come on-line in six to eight weeks.  Trosper is optimistic that a new Bruin Montrose Recycling Plant will be operating soon.

Heather Knox Rommel is the Executive Director for EcoAction Partners. EcoAction Partners is our region's sustainability organization, focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and tracking our regional progress toward these goals.  Additionally EcoAction Partners works with the community to reduce waste, increase local food supply and encourage other sustainable practices.