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Durango in the market for alternative recycling shipping and processing options

Free glass collection at recycling center still open, despite maintenance closure through most of February
Residents of the city and La Plata County can drop off glass at the Durango Recycle Center, 710 Tech Center Drive. Collecting glass separately from single-stream recyclables allows the city to sell the glass for a higher price. This helps control recycling costs. (Durango Herald file)

When ownership of an Albuquerque recycling facility changed hands in 2022, the city of Durango’s per-ton processing and shipping costs increased 158% and 152%, respectively.

Durango Public Works Director Allison Baker said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting that recycling opportunities are narrowing as recycling facilities adopt new prices based on material types and components.

The city currently provides recycling collection services to about 4,850 residents and more than 500 commercial customers. Recycling materials are sorted by type: cardboard, batteries, electronics, glass and single stream materials (other materials not mentioned).

The materials are hauled to a recycling facility in Albuquerque, where they are processed. Single-stream materials are first baled at the Durango Recycling Center. Baker said the average truckload from Durango to Albuquerque historically costs the city $1,350. And the city paid a flat rate of $60 per ton to have the materials processed.

That is what the city paid to Freidman Recycling between 2015 and 2022. But after Waste Connections – also known as BARCO – bought Friedman Recycling in February 2022, those prices would not last.

Baker said the city’s shipping and processing costs have increased “significantly.”

The city currently pays Waste Connections on average $3,400 per truckload from Durango to Albuquerque, a 152% increase from three years ago.

Similarly, the city now pays on average $155 per ton processed versus the old rate of $60 per ton, an increase of 158%.

She said the change of hands from Freidman Recycling to Waste Connections resulted in a “change in the processing of the material pricing where material is divided into multiple components, different types of plastic material.”

“Tin, aluminum, various kinds of recyclable materials,” Baker said. “And those are priced by an average market value throughout the country. Then we are billed for the transport of that material at that rate.”

The additional processing and shipping expenses combined with declining recycling markets are the cause of increased costs, Durango Public Works operations manager Joey Medina said in an email to The Durango Herald.

“The City will continue to pursue alternative shipping and processing options,” he said. “The City plans on putting their recycle material out for bid in 2024 to see if we can get a better price structure for material shipped out for processing.”

Baker said there could be more alternatives the city hasn’t found yet.

On a related note, Medina said the glass collection chute at the Durango Recycling Center remains open for glass disposal despite the center itself being closed until Feb. 23 or Feb. 24 for maintenance on the city’s baler.

The city began its glass recycling program in 1990 and operates every day of the year, Baker said. The only exception is when transport to a recycling facility is unavailable and storage at the recycling center is full.

The city hauls glass collections to Rocky Mountain Bottle Co. in Wheat Ridge, where the materials are repurposed back into glass bottles. Baker said the city receives $35 per ton of glass material from the bottle company.

Transport costs for glass remains at about $1,300 per load. A load typically carries about 30 tons of glass.

The city used to have free glass drop-off locations around town, but those locations were shut down because unclean glass kept being dropped off, Baker said.

Medina said the drop-off locations closed about six years ago and the city doesn’t have plans to reopen any of them at this time.

“What we have found is (collecting glass) directly at the Durango Recycle Center, allows staff to monitor glass being drop off by staff and camera monitoring system,” he said. “This allows a cleaner product to be shipped out for processing.”

Household trash, food scraps and furniture are all examples of contaminants city employees would find at the drop-off locations, he said.

“We do ask that all bottles be washed out prior to bringing them to the recycle center for processing,” he said.

Baker said the city’s glass recycling efforts have a diversion rate of glass from the landfill of about 33%, and it’s a good investment by the city for reducing materials that end up in the landfill.


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