Colorado produces record amount of trash as recycling stagnates
- Colorado residents produced a record 9.3 million tons of trash last year, according to a report from Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG). The state recycling rate stagnated at 12%.
- For the second year in a row, Loveland, Boulder and Louisville had the state's highest recycling rates at 61%, 52% and 44%, respectively. Loveland's rate is the same as last year, whereas Boulder and Louisville both experienced slight dips.
- The report lays out recycling-boosting recommendations for Governor-elect Jared Polis to carry out within his first 100 days in office: appoint a state recycling coordinator; launch a recycling market development initiative; create a waste diversion funding taskforce; and expand recycling and composting at state agencies.
Last year's inaugural report highlighted the fact that 25 of Colorado's 64 counties didn't have access to curbside recycling. This year, the focus is on the record amount of trash produced, combined with the lack of progress on improving recycling rates.
The fact that Colorado's recycling rate lags behind the national average to such a degree may seem surprising, considering the state's environmental reputation. Even the three cities that have spent the past two years topping the recycling rate list haven't been able to push the needle forward, with two of them even slipping. Abundant landfill capacity, and resulting low tip fees, remain a difficult factor to overcome. Aside from some unique models, such as the nonprofit co-author Eco-Cycle, many local programs still have significant ground to make up.
Not all the news is disappointing — the report identifies communities that have added or expanded recycling programs. Longmont's recycling rate jumped 5% thanks to a new curbside composting program, Pueblo opened its first public drop-off center for recyclables and Denver launched a Food Action Plan and partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council to reduce residential food waste.
The report also offers solutions, including statewide initiatives that might create more unity among and support for municipal recycling programs. Program uniformity and consistency — versus leaving cities to tackle recycling challenges individually — is widely viewed as a way to lessen residents' confusion, reduce contamination and improve recycling rates. In addition, a growing number of cities are seeking support from their states due to the difficult market conditions the recycling industry is currently facing.
- Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG) The State of Recycling in Colorado 2018
Follow Katie Pyzyk on Twitter