Recycling Service Investigation

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Customers separate their recyclable materials to recycle them.
Some even pay companies extra to do pick it up and make sure that happens.

But some supervisors with one local company sent it out with the rest of the trash. Their employees say it went on for years.

In home video presented to KKTV, at first glance it appears a large truck is unloading a regular pile of trash. What sets the vehicle aside from a regular garbage truck is the unmistakable recycling symbol on the side.

A closer look at its contents shows it's all recycling: empty milk jugs, water bottles and more.

"They're a company serving a community, charging them for a service they're not providing," said the man who provided the video. He was a five-year employee of Colorado Springs’ U.S. Waste Industries, inc.

On countless occasions he says he saw materials customers had separated for recycling mixed in with regular trash and dropped off and buried at a local dump.

"You're just paying them more to put it there," he said.

The drivers, he says, were just following orders.

"I have friends that pay for the service and I can't look them in the eye and tell them yeah, i work for the company and you're doing a good thing by recycling and you're not. You're just getting ripped off," he said.

U.S. Waste covers 50 thousand customers for trash pick-up. Ten per cent of those pay about 40 dollars a year for recycling services for the sole purpose of keeping newspapers, plastics and aluminum out the landfill.

"We have nothing to hide,” said U.S. Waste General Manager, David Sanders. “We're supposed to be recycling, that's what we're doing now."

Sanders said the problem is part of the past. He insists it was corrected late last year, once owners caught wind of what was going on.

"We fired our general manager, we fired our transfer station manager," said Sanders.

Sanders said the transfer station is run as it should be, and has been from the beginning of the year. Trash is going to the dump while cardboard is baled, plastics are stacked, and there is a record of every piece that's sold to a recycling contractor.

"Before it was kind of a problem, but right now I think we have it contained pretty well," said transfer station manager John Cross.

What is unclear, is just how long the problem lasted, even after owners discovered it.

"It's hard to say, hopefully not more than a month," said Sanders

But the former supervisors worked for U.S. Waste for up to two years. And because managers don't know how widespread the mishandling was, there were no refunds, nor did they contact any customers regarding the discovery.

"It gets pretty costly to send out a letter to notify them exactly what the problem was," Sanders explained.

KKTV’s source said the problem wasn't solved immediately, and though much of his video was gathered last fall, he claims he shot some of it as recently as February this year.

"I think the evidence speaks for itself: people are paying for service they're not getting," he said.

U.S. Waste continues to collect 15 truck-loads of recycling a week from Colorado Springs customers, and insists this time, when it leaves your curb, the next time you see it, it will be new plastic, new paper or new cardboard.

When the El Paso County Division of Solid Waste management saw the video, officials said putting recycled materials in the dump breaks no current state or local environmental regulations. General operations at the U.S. Waste Transfer Station are in compliance.