The Future of Recycling in Southwest Wyoming

The Future of Recycling in Southwest Wyoming

ROCK SPRINGS — Curbside pickup, stakeholder intent and expansion of the Ray Lovato Recycling Center (RLRC) were the main topics of discussion last night during a special meeting of the Rock Springs City Council.

Recycling Center Board President Devon Brubaker shared information with the Council about the current state of affairs at the recycling center, and also outlined several goals about how to handle the volume growth.

Brubaker said the recycling center is no longer equipped to handle increased volume because of outdated equipment and facilities. He said all the bailing equipment is at least 20 years old and now requires expensive repairs to maintain.

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Trash hauling, processing costs for recycling and processing locations differ significantly between Rock Springs and Green River. Green River residents pay more for waste hauling because Wyoming Waste Management (the city’s only provider) must pay a tip fee at the landfill to cover monthly and quarterly costs. Residential fees for waste management in Rock Springs come out of the individual’s property tax. Rock Springs residents can also choose between WWM and Peak Disposal for their services.

Green River currently offers curbside recycling pickup, and Brubaker said he’d like to see the service become available in Rock Springs in the near future. But Rock Springs residents don’t pay to recycle their materials because of an agreement with the Sweetwater County Solid Waste District which provides funding to RLRC.

We have had very good success over the last five year growing our volumes. But we can’t continue to grow. Our equipment can’t handle additional capacity. And the cost of doing business, as everyone knows, is going higher.

RLCC Board President Devon Brubaker

Curbside Cost

The cost of curbside pickup in Rock Springs is a component of an ordinance that the council will be debate in the next several months. Options include making the service mandatory thus charging residents a set fee for the service or an opt-in choice leaving the decision up to the individual.

Mayor Tim Kaumo said it’s not likely this Council will make recycling mandatory given the current attitude toward mandates on the national level.

“But we have a moral obligation to keep costs down and do what we can to extend the life of our landfill,” Kaumo said.

Statistics show that the RLRC processed 1.96 million pounds of recycling in 2021. That’s the equivalent of parking 45-50 fully compacted semi trucks side-by-side in the Rock Springs landfill, Brubaker said.

“We need to make a long-term decision as a community that If recycling is important then we need to make an investment somewhere along the line, because that timeline is ticking,” Brubaker said. “If we don’t have the investment and ability to grow volume, then we might as well not be in business.”

Councilor Robb Zotti said he wants to make sure that the little guy isn’t “squeezed out” of the waste management competition because of requirements to offer recycling services. Solid Waste District Chairman Chris Meats said the district is on board with recycling “but we also have to do what’s financially responsible for our constituents.”

City attorney Rick Beckwith said it would be helpful if Peak Disposal and Wyoming Waste Management could provide the city with a fee structure for curbside recycling and associated costs to provide the service like additional bins and manpower. He said he will begin structuring the ordinance to bring to the Council in the next few months.

Brubaker also said he’s in the process of acquiring grants and below market financing from Closed Loop Partners to assist in the paying for recycling costs. But he asked the key stakeholders (the city, SWD No. 1, WWM and Peak Disposal) to write a “letter of intent” to help move the process forward.

Brubaker’s powerpoint presentation can be viewed below.