DEL NORTE— The San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council opened a stakeholder meeting in Del Norte on June 28. The meeting was one of two that were held in the Valley that day and welcomed almost 20 participants and keynote individuals from the waste management division. The meeting opened with an introduction from Project Developer John Stump who introduced the rest of his team, Project Coordinator Kristina Crowder and Conejos County Clean Water Inc. Project Coordinator Anna Lee Vargas.
The purpose of the meeting was for people in the waste management business throughout the Valley to come together and talk about the next 10 years of the ecosystem project, what issues are facing them today and how they can fix the problems that are stopping the streamline process of waste management and recycling in the region.
Over the last several years and with the help of a grant issued to the organization from the USDA, the Ecosystem Council and Clean Water Inc. have cleaned up illegal dumpsites throughout the San Luis Valley, focusing on the direst areas. Now that the situation is somewhat under control the organization wanted to sit down with waste management professionals and stakeholders to discuss the future of the organization and what they could do to help increase recycling in the Valley as well as cut down the amount of waste going to regional landfills.
The group spent several moments discussing the different things they have done from Saguache to Rio Grande County Landfill and beyond to help bring about change in how waste is handled in the Valley. One of the main things that stakeholders are focusing on in the Valley is how to minimize waste in the landfills by weeding out material that can either be recycled, reused or sent on to other facilities such as organic material to a compost facility.
In a study done in early spring, the Ecosystem Council and Clean Water Inc. spent three days at the Rio Grande County Landfill working in the actual dump to see what kind of material was being brought to the landfill. The result ended up showing that a good portion of the material being brought to the landfill could be recycled or transferred to an organic facility made to dispose of organic material. Though such a facility does not exist yet in the Valley, the thought of having one created was brought up for discussion.
After each waste management stakeholder spoke about recent projects and what they are doing to help increase recycling in their facilities, the conversation turned to what issues presented the most challenges for facilities when it came to recycling material. The main issue for almost all of the landfills throughout the Valley is having to haul the material to facilities outside of the Valley in order for the recycled material to be disposed of.
The cost of hauling the material to Pueblo or Colorado Springs compared to the profit of bringing in recycling to the landfills in the Valley clearly outweighs the other and poses a serious problem. Some of the stakeholders stated that the fact that some local recycling facilities only accept certain recyclable materials due to single stream capabilities and that the sparse population in the Valley also leads to expensive curbside service.
Once the stakeholders created a viable list of current projects and challenges they face, the group now has a clear direction they want to go in the next 10 years. The organization is currently applying for additional funding through the USDA and grant funding through the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.