9 December 2009: Local recycling business good for community

Local recycling business good for the community

After years of living in Clear Creek and working in Summit, I can attest to one aspect wherein Clear Creek lags: recycling.

Our friends and neighbors to the west are much further ahead on that curve, which says much of the values of our culture.

In recent years, strides have been made to address the deficiency. The county’s Transfer Center has become more user-friendly, and the hazardous material — hazmat — dropoff event last summer was very successful.

In Idaho Springs, active residents and Carlson Elementary students have been raising awareness along with organizations such as the Clear Creek Watershed and the CC Sustainability Committee.

What we lacked, however, was a curbside pickup effort taken for granted elsewhere — that is, until July 2009, when a couple of forward-thinking couples, Sean and Carrie Hinchliffe and Amy and Bryan Romine, founded Green Waste and Recycling to provide both residential and commercial service.

“We got talking about it at a barbecue last summer, wondering why so few recycle in Clear Creek,” Hinchliffe says. “So, we started with a pickup and invested in a trash truck. It was trial and error, but we soon learned how to do it well.”

For about 75 cents a day, less than the price of a cup of latte, residents can have all of their trash and recyclables picked up weekly.

“We’re focusing on customer service at a time when it is going away. We offer senior discounts, flexible scheduling, on-call pick-up and single-stream

recycling,” which simply means all recyclables can be co-mingled. In addition, GWR is planning to develop an online billing option — less paper to be recycled.

Georgetown resident Elaine McWain has been using GWR since September and is “thrilled with their service.”

Recyclers like McWain come to realize, as I have, that up to 90 percent of their trash is recyclable.

“Once a month I would sort all my recycle into various bins, load it in my car, and drive it to Evergreen. Now GWR takes even more items, leaving only a small shopping bag of actual garbage. Not only is this service more convenient and economical and saving me gasoline, it pleases me to be able to reduce my contribution to our landfills.”

Since July GWR has hauled 10,400 pounds of co-mingled items to Alpine Recycling in Commerce City.

“We’re given a grade by Alpine for having trash completely separated from recycled items,” says Romine. “We almost always get 100 percent.”

Kerry Ann McHugh, who along with husband Jeff is a recent small-business entrepreneur with Ed’s Café in Georgetown, finds GWR’s service invaluable and good for business.

“We tried to recycle at our restaurant prior to signing up for their weekly pickup, but found it difficult. Now, we don’t have to worry about it, and our customers are happy to see we’re recycling,” says McHugh.

GWR is working with Carlson Elementary in which GWR takes recyclables, saving parents the task, and returning to the school the cash for the aluminum cans.

“We have a group of dedicated students, spearheaded first by former student Jack Dixon, a seventh-grader at CCMS, and by now his brother Dennis, who collect recycling bins from the classrooms and organize the material for the weekly pickup,” says principal Marcia Jochim.

“Carlson has been recycling for at least three years. Previously, we only recycled paper, but now we do glass, aluminum and plastic and are very happy! GWR takes everything! Eventually, we would like to recycle the Styrofoam lunch trays and compost the waste.”

On that note, GWR is working with a group of kids with their Scraps-to-Soil program, which can reduce trash sent to landfills — egg shells, peelings, coffee grinds — even more. And given the season, GWR is exploring ways to expedite Christmas tree recycling.

Whether one recycles or tosses a recyclable item is a habit that has ethical implications.

“When I enter someone’s home, I take off my shoes,” says Romine. “It’s a sign of respect. I apply that value to a community. A community that recycles shows they care about their home.”

Hinchliffe admits to a pet peeve and makes an excellent point about “outsourcing” when local resources are readily available.

“The major trash haulers from Evergreen and Denver don’t fuel up here or eat at our local restaurants. We do and by so doing, add to the tax base. And we’re a quick phone call away seven days a week.”

At a time when local businesses are struggling to keep their doors open and tax revenues, especially in Georgetown, are tanking, that’s really a good thing.

It’s often said small businesses are the heart of the American economy. In small communities such as Clear Creek, they can’t survive without the support of the larger community.

GWR coming onto the scene offers us, thus, a twofold benefit: to get into the recycling program, if you haven’t already, easily and cheaply and an opportunity — and reminder — to support our neighbors’ small business ventures.

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