August is a great month for holidays: National Watermelon Day on the 3rd, International Beer Day on the 4th, National Peach Pie Day on August 24th, and National Trail Mix Day on the 31st. What do all these days have in common? Waste! Watermelon rinds, beer cans, peach pits, and raisins (controversial, I know) are all going to be thrown out by folks celebrating these cherished holidays.
You might be thinking, “Wait! None of these have to end up in the landfill! They can all be recycled or composted (including all those pesky raisins)!”
In Eagle County, we’re fortunate to live in a community where recycling and composting has become the norm. We all have access to recycling, be it curbside or at local dropsites. Additionally, this fall, Eagle residents will be able to compost their organic waste via curbside pickup, along with trash and recycling. In Vail, some residents have been participating in a curbside compost pilot program that will hopefully expand to the entire town soon.
In addition to municipal efforts, Walking Mountains’ Zero Waste Team has been hard at work ensuring that events across the County, from the Eagle County Rodeo, to Mountain Games, to AvonLIVE! are zero-waste events. The Team aims to divert over 80% of the waste from the landfill via recycling and composting. All these programs have contributed to Eagle County having its highest ever waste diversion percentage in 2022.
Now you’re probably thinking, “Waste diversion? What’s that?”
Over the past couple months, the team at Walking Mountains has compiled data from multiple partner organizations and crunched the numbers to create the 2022 Eagle County Waste Diversion Report. They've collected data on municipal solid waste (waste from homes and businesses), compost, recycling, e-waste, hazardous waste, and construction waste to determine just how much of it doesn't end up in the landfill.
We’re pleased to report that in 2022, 31.4% of all waste generated in Eagle County was diverted from the landfill. Over 14,500 tons was composted and another 32,000 tons was recycled. This means that instead of sitting in a landfill, never breaking down, and releasing copious amounts of methane (which is 25-times more potent than CO2), our beer cans will turn into new ones and those pesky raisins will become nutrient-rich soil for our gardens.
2022’s diversion rate right is in line with the trends we’ve seen over the past 12 years. Walking Mountains first published a diversion report in 2010. That year, Eagle County only diverted 11.2% of waste. It wasn’t until 2019 that we hit the 20% mark, and just 3 years later, we surpassed 30% of waste being diverted from the landfill!
Walking Mountains and the Climate Action Collaborative are incredibly grateful to Eagle County Solid Waste & Recycling, Trinity Recycling, Vail Honeywagon. Vail Valley Waste, Waste Management and many more for their dedication to successful waste diversion. Their hard work has resulted in over 86,000 metric tons of CO2e not being released into the atmosphere in 2022, equivalent to removing over 7,500 gas-powered cars from the road.
As the summer winds down, you’ll see Walking Mountains’ Zero Waste Team at Oktoberfest, the Vail Farmers Market, and Man of the Cliff, kindly asking you to recycle and compost. When you do, you’ll feel good knowing that you’re helping reduce the amount of waste entering our landfill.
If you have questions about whether something can be recycled or composted, download the Eagle County Waste Wizard app onto your iPhone or Android. If you don’t have curbside compost access, you can enroll in Vail Honeywagon’s compost drop site program for a small fee. You can also reach out to your local government or HOA officials to push for composting in your area.
This August, after you’ve enjoyed your watermelon, beer, peach pie, or trail mix, don’t forget to properly dispose of your waste. We can all do our part to get Eagle County’s waste diversion rate even higher in 2023 (even if it requires picking out the raisins).
Will Barror is the Climate Action Coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center. The Climate Action Collaborative is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Eagle County 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.