Recycling costs

County should pony up for popular service

The city of Durango has rightly recognized that demand for recycling services has surpassed supply. With that recognition has come a significant investment that aims to put that market into equilibrium by increasing the capacity of the city’s recycling center and streamlining the method by which materials can be processed for shipment. For $1.6 million invested, the city will be able to recycle a broader range of materials, thereby easing the pressure on the landfill as well as simplifying the sorting process for curbside customers and those who use the drop-off stations throughout town.

That investment is a bargain, but one that will strain the city’s limited coffers such that one option for offsetting it is a monthly fee for curbside pickup. Before considering that, it is worth a discussion with La Plata County as to how drop-off recyclers – presumably in large part county residents outside the city’s pick-up service area – can contribute.

The city’s recycling center is the sole regional venue for sending today’s milk jugs on their way to becoming tomorrow’s laundry detergent bottles. That means that all curbside pickups – the city’s or private vendors operating in the county – deposit their wares at the center. The drop-off stations around the city are also emptied – by city workers in city vehicles – at the city’s recycling center. The level of interest in recycling has grown in recent years, and that is a good thing. In meeting that interest, though, the city is right to ask those who use the service to pay a bit for the privilege.

It is not altogether without precedent for the county to kick in for services located within city limits. The city and county have a joint sales-tax fund that pays for the library, senior services and the landfill, to the tune of approximately $1.9 million each year, combined between the two entities. That sort of cost-sharing is appropriate to consider for recycling as well. The service is similar to those currently funded out of the shared account in that it is equally available to city and county residents who choose to use it.

County residents who argue against the notion of county support for recycling – or any other city service – often say that because they pay city sales tax for any purchases made in Durango, they do pay for city services. That is a bit of a stretch. Sales tax is appealing in communities such as Durango because the high number of tourists who visit the region pump up sales-tax revenue. The remainder is paid by city and county residents. Also, the tax is elective: Those who choose to can do their shopping elsewhere and not contribute to the city services they may use.

The city’s recycling program is widely popular, and widely used. Those who participate in it, whether curbside or at drop-off centers, can contribute to its necessary expansion. That should not be limited to city residents, after all, the program itself is not.

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