Public Health Director for Otero and Crowley Counties Rick Ritter is managing the Bent/Crowley/Otero 2017 Waste Diversion Grant. His aims are twofold — to make the counties eligible for future grants and to coordinate and make more productive the recycling in the three counties.

Public Health Director for Otero and Crowley Counties Rick Ritter is managing the Bent/Crowley/Otero 2017 Waste Diversion Grant. His aims are twofold — to make the counties eligible for future grants and to coordinate and make more productive the recycling in the three counties. Some overlapping of services occurs, but, as Jace Gearhart of South/Southeast Waste Management in Las Animas and Dee Hostetler of Clean Valley Recycling agreed, "there's plenty of cardboard for everybody." Three hundred six tons of cardboard are taking up a lot of room in the landfill, even with the recycling that is available. Also, cardboard is one of the easiest materials to recycle, as Gearhart said, in packing materials and items from egg crates to blown insulation.

Clean Valley Recycling has a diverse service, with pickup-up points in La Junta, Rocky Ford and Las Animas, curbside service in Rocky Ford, and a large warehouse in Swink with a cardboard baler. They also recycle electronics for a fee and paint, as well as paper, plastic, metal and glass. Dee Hostetler talked for Clean Valley Recycling. They also have a pickup service for commercial cardboard.

Jace Gearhart is manager of South/Southeast Waste Management, which also has recycle bins in La Junta for paper, plastics, colored and clear glass. They also collect cardboard, serving 35 communities in the area with 67 drop-off sites. They sell materials from recycling through a brokerage, because industries that use these materials change a lot. Clean Valley also sells its materials as one source of income. They also have fundraisers and sell their plastics recycling sacks.

With all the resources here at present, only eight percent of our trash by estimate is diverted from the landfill. In Colorado as a whole, 23 percent is the average. In the nation as a whole, 34 percent is diverted.

One of the missions of the local public health agencies addresses environmental health. The LPHA must "promote programs to minimize the amount of solid and hazardous waste and maximize the amount of recycling and reuse." Anne Peters, consultant in waste diversification from Boulder (company name Gracestone Inc.), said the hazardous materials in the trash such as petroleum products, cleaners with hazardous components and chemicals represent not only a hazard when mixed with ordinary trash, but also fire hazards in a home, contributing to starting fires and making it difficult to extinguish fires for the fire departments.

The first physical task under the grant will be to conduct a waste audit. Peters described the process of making a waste audit to the group present. First, the location of the sampling must be determined. Since all three communities use the Otero County Landfill, that problem is solved. Next, the day of the audit is important, but that also was easy to resolve, since manager Danny Chavez said there was similar materials deposited every day the landfill is open. They are always busy.

The sampling will be taken with a scoop by a front loader, then spread out along a dry surface and classified according to a pre-determined classification system, such as organic, recyclables, metal and divisions thereof. Probably 10 to 20 categories will be necessary. Peters thought the big collection of laundry baskets at Clean Valley Recycling would be ideal containers for sorting. This will be a face mask, hat and glove operation and pretty messy. It will be accomplished by a stakeholder group comprised of an elected official, an appointed official and an at-large member from each of Bent, Crowley and Otero counties. They are as follows: Bent County - Kim MacDonnell (elected), Beth Spady (appointed), Shannon Wallace (at large); Crowley County - Frank Grant (elected), Rick Ritter (appointed), Su Korbitz (at large); Otero County - Keith Goodwin (elected), Danny Chavez (appointed) and Andy Lotrich (at large). The following members also agreed to be at-large members - Jace Gearhart, Dee Hostetler and Kelly Lotrich.

Other meetings of the group will be on Friday, May 5, for waste audit selection and overview, to take place at Las Animas; Thursday, July 27, for waste audit analysis, at Ordway; Friday, Aug. 25, at La Junta for gap analysis, catalogue of existing infrastructure and catalogue of existing policies. Friday, Sept. 29, Gap analysis at Las Animas, identifying infrastructure needs and identifying policy needs. The final report will be at Ordway on Tuesday, Nov. 21. All will be luncheon meetings.

Ritter and Peters both commented that the willingness to work together displayed at this meeting is a good sign the grant will be productive in delivering the specific core service of practical recycling. Both Peters and Hostetler emphasized recycling needs to be convenient and affordable. People really want to recycle, but sometimes it seems too complicated. In places where it works best - California, Washington and Oregon — it is compulsory but also well-organized for convenience and affordability.