This means a compost and recycling bin next to every trash bin, and scores of volunteers on hand to help the public sort where to put event trash.
2012 will mark the first year Leadville's signature race events will be ‘zero waste' - a concept that requires event planners to think about the end destination of every item that gets tossed away. That's a lot of planning for over 10,000 event attendees over the course of the Summer. It does not mean that there will be zero trash sent to the landfill, but there will be a whole lot less. High Country Conservation Center's Lynne Greene, who will be managing the zero-waste stream, estimates about half of last year's trash will now become compost. This includes all plates, cups, bowls and utensils, which this year will be corn-based, thanks to Leadville Race Series. All of these items and all food, including meat and dairy, will be composted at High Country Compost, the commercial compost facility at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park (SCRAP) near Keystone.
High Country Conservation Center will be working with Green Wolf Recycling to make sure the correct materials are collected and transferred to High Country Compost. At the Summit County compost facility, piles of organic material are turned into nutritious soil within a matter of weeks and sold locally for landscaping and reclamation projects. Anyone can support the program by purchasing the final product directly from SCRAP by contacting the Summit County Landfill.
Composting can sound daunting, but the commercial systems for compost disposal have evolved so that large events can dispose of compost the same way they do trash, with some added benefits to the community and the environment including increased local soil production and decreased trash in the landfill.
Cleaner waste stations will be another byproduct of zero-waste management. With so many volunteers stationed at events to help people compost and recycle, overflowing trash containers will be a thing of the past.
"This is a good neighbor thing to do and will show pride in our wonderful mountain City. Zero waste keeps our landfills from filling up and insures that our future generations will have a clean and bright future. As a City we all need to be recycling and getting trash to the proper place (Landfill). I support all efforts in our community that shows we care and that together we can make it happen. We should all support the zero-waste movement," said Jaime Stuever, Leadville's Mayor.??This weekend's high standard for waste disposal is several years in the making. Leadville Race Series has been working to improve the way waste is disposed of. Last year they began recycling at all events. This year they are stepping it up further by hiring the High Country Conservation Center to handle the recycling and composting outreach and management. High Country Conservation Center currently manages Summit County's zero-waste events including the Frisco Barbeque challenge with over 30,000 event-goers and over 100 vendors.
"Our participants are very supportive of increased recycling and composting efforts," said Josh Colley, "Most people recycle at home and believe in the concept. We want our event organization to reflect that."
"When you are composting at this level, there are significant reduction in the amount of trash that will go to the Lake County landfill, and a bonus of significant greenhouse gas reductions," said Lynne Greene. Adding that the life expectancy of the landfill is a fiscal concern for the County, which will have to spend significantly when the current landfill is full to capacity.
Even with all the effort and planning that has gone into making the races zero waste, some trash is still inevitable. People sometimes bring in coffee cups and plastic containers that don't meet local recycling or composting guidelines. Or more likely, people mistake a composting bin for a trash bin, contaminating the items inside. "A small amount of contamination is expected," Greene says, "but we will have to be fairly vigilant in checking the final product. That's why we will need so much volunteer help. But challenges at one event improve the next." And Greene thinks Leadville Race Series could achieve waste-diversion rates as high as 75 percent by the end of this year's race series.
Organizers will need a lot of volunteers to help them get the most out of recycling and composting. If you want to volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (970) 668-5703. By volunteering for our zero waste efforts you may receive preference for the 2013 lottery for the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race. Be sure and request a pink volunteer form from the zero waste organizers if you are interested!
High Country Conservation Center