Results from the Town of Vail’s inaugural Business Recycling Challenge have been announced. The seven participating businesses averaged a 57 percent recycling rate following the four-week challenge, improving from a 49 percent average baseline before the competition began. Participants will be recognized by the Vail Town Council during the evening meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Manor Vail, McNeil Property Management, Mountain Standard, Steadman Clinic, Sweet Basil, Vail Mountain School and Vail Spa Condominiums all participated in the challenge. Mark Hoblitzell, the town’s environmental sustainability coordinator, says the participants went above and beyond to show that high levels of recycling can be achieved in the community. Currently, the Eagle County recycling rate is at 22 percent, compared to 12 percent in Colorado and 34 percent nationally. The Town of Vail adopted a community-wide recycling ordinance in 2014 and the challenge program is part of on-going efforts to reach community waste diversion goals.
All businesses received an initial baseline audit to determine recycling rates as well as education on recycling best practices. Throughout the challenge, participants were audited each week to measure progress. The Town of Vail partnered with Walking Mountains Science Center to run the challenge and serve as an expert liaison on recycling and waste diversion.
McNeil Property Management is the overall challenge winner with a final recycling rate of 84 percent and an average rate of 81 percent. During the competition, the company improved signage on recycling bins and expanded recycling programs to include soft plastics, printer cartridges and more. “We really feel like we’re making a difference in the community and we’ll all take what we have learned into our daily lives at home and with our friends and family to try to make an even bigger difference,” said Dan McNeill of McNeill Property Management.
The award for most innovative recycling education or diversion program has been given to Vail Mountain School for the development of an experiential learning wall to help students learn what materials are recyclable and for expanding composting programs throughout the school. Stephanie Lewis, a member of the science faculty at Vail Mountain School, noted the competition was a fun way to start the school year in a positive direction. “We educated the students and staff right away, and got them to build good habits with disposing of waste properly,” she said. “We were able to make some institutional changes to improve our composting, which made a big difference with our cafeteria food waste. Finally, we were able to integrate the challenge into a ninth grade Design Thinking class working to solve real problems, and it motivated our Green Team to get to work right away. I am thankful we had this chance to start the year off right,” she said.
Vail Spa Condominiums has been selected as the winner of the most improved category, improving every week of the challenge from a baseline rate of 32 percent to a final recycling rate of 81 percent and a challenge average of 56 percent. “The Recycling Challenge was a great experience that generated excitement with a little friendly competition,” said Cassandra MacUmber, assistant general manager. “The audits brought to light things people probably didn’t know about as to what they could recycle and created an opportunity for all of us on the property to ask the experts about recycling,” she said. Vail Spa Condominiums achieved their award by improving signage and education efforts, transitioning to reusable items at the coffee bar, removing bags from recycling bins, and using totes instead of bagging materials to reduce contamination, and more.
A recent study showed that there is the potential to divert up to 80 percent of the material that goes into the Eagle County landfill by using existing recycling and compost infrastructure in the valley. Often a few simple steps can go a long way in reducing the amount of waste locally, according to Hoblitzell. He says the Recycling Challenge participants showed that it is possible to achieve high recycling rates no matter the type of business and the very unique challenges that different organizations face.
To learn more about how to improve recycling in your business, visit MHoblitzell, or Melissa Kirr, sustainability programs director at Walking Mountains Science Center, at 970-827-9725 ext.133 or MelissaK.