In preparation for its latest research, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would pay workers $30 an hour to sort trash in Telluride, Colorado. The waste sorting project will begin on March 12 and end on March 18, 2023.
The EPA aims to study waste disposal in the county to account for seasonal trash-tossing accumulation. The purpose is to narrow down what kind of waste is thrown in different seasons so the agency can enact measures to combat improper disposal.
The trash sorters will be assigned to sort trash bags and recycling bins from the Franz Klammer Lodge, one of Telluride’s more luxurious ski lodges. They will also collaborate with EPA researchers to categorize trash into 22 different categories and participate in hands-on environmental studies.
One of Colorado’s biggest sustainability organizations, EcoAction Partners, has also joined the research and will assist the government in recruiting trash sorters for the project. Trash sorters will work two shifts daily for four hours each.
EPA researchers have studied the Telluride region for around four years, with the latest round of trash sorting being considered the research’s second phase. The first phase ran in 2019 and 2021, where researchers observed the waste disposal of two different mountain resort properties.
This year’s research will study waste disposal from the Franz Klammer Lodge on Mountain Village Boulevard, Telluride. EcoAction Partners said that the study would determine whether “guest and staff education has an impact on recyclables” found in the lodge.
Extensive waste for expensive tastes
The first phase of the EPA’s research, entitled “San Miguel County, Colorado Materials Characterization Report for Short-Term Condominium Rentals,” studied the disposal habits of a higher-class lodge (Franz Klammer) and a cheaper resort complex (Manitou Lodge).
The research in 2019 and 2021 found that 70 percent of the 8,000 pounds of waste were classified as “recoverable.” Forty-four percent of the recoverable waste was compostable, while 24 percent was recyclable. In other words, over 5,000 pounds of trash sent to landfills could have been processed into recycled materials or compost at the time.
The study’s first phase also found an interesting pattern among the higher-class lodge visitors. Twenty-seven percent of the trash at Franz Klammer was recycled, compared to the 9 percent recycled at Manitou Lodge.
However, the higher-end Manitou condo visitors contributed over 34 percent of food waste, compared to the 27 percent of food wasted on average-priced condos. Franz Klammer also threw out over 80 pounds of recoverable food, such as unopened snack packages, condiments and vegetable produce.
Researchers concluded from these patterns that higher-class visitors were more likely to recycle trash and waste food. After a recommendation from the EPA, both the Manitou Lodge and the Franz Klammer Lodge adjusted their waste disposal approaches.
Manitou made bins more accessible and installed signs reminding visitors to recycle. Meanwhile, Franz Klammer educated housekeeping staff about appropriate recycling measures, hoping to ensure proper waste disposal in their establishment.
The latest EPA research will assess whether these measures have changed trash-tossing behavior in Franz Klammer.
Some sorters from the research’s first phase will return to join the second phase, including San Miguel’s County Commissioner Kris Holstrum.
Holstrum is also an ardent recycling advocate. Two decades ago, she persuaded Telluride Bluegrass Festival promoters to install recycling bins and compost facilities to combat waste from over 10,000 visitors every festival day.
The county commissioner affirmed the need for more vigorous trash-reduction efforts, especially in Telluride. The area’s box canyon setting and lack of a proper landfill have made it difficult for waste-hauling companies to dispose of waste over 60 miles from the town.
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