Way back in October of 2009 we wrote a story about a nascent ski and snowboard recycling program that the trade group Snowsports Industries of America (SIA) had launched. Since then, the program has made slow but steady progress and has set up collection sites at more than 65 retail locations in Colorado and Utah and is looking to expand to six other nearby states. So far, 700,000 pounds of used gear have been collected—diverting it from landfills and turning it into usable, valuable products—but the program expects it will soon be diverting at least one million pounds of gear from landfills each year.
We spoke with the Snow Sports Recycling Program (SSRP) director Greg Schneider to get a full update on where the program is headed.
A MUCH-NEEDED FINANCIAL BOOST
"Everyone thinks recycling is free," says Schneider. It is anything but—especially in the earliest stages of setting up a recycling infrastructure. But in January of 2011, the SIA, along with a recycling company called Waste-Not Recycling, based in Johnstown, Colorado, received an important economic boost through a $425,000 grant that was used to purchase the type of machines needed to put skis and snowboards through a six-step progression during which the materials (plastics and metals, mostly) are separated and processed.
However, the grant only takes the program so far. Schneider needed to find a way to make it sustainable. This meant setting up a logistical framework that would connect the used gear—resting in the dusty corners of closets and long-ignored garage rafters—with the recycling center. His objectives were not just to find a way to do that cheaply, but also in a manner that would not do more harm than good.