- Recycling may be up in Southwest Colorado, but so is landfill disposal. According to the Southwest Colorado Index Report, the Bondad Landfill in Durango has seen a 7% increase in the amount of waste it receives since 2007.
- The average person in the region generates 5.9 pounds of waste per day as compared to the national average of 4.4 pounds.
- The Durango Recycling Center—which accepts material from multiple counties—diverted 19 million pounds of waste in 2015, more than double the 7 million pounds from 2006. The city of Cortez also saw an improvement by diverting 855,690 pounds in 2015 from 687,655 pounds in 2007.
The increased tonnages of recycled material are a good step forward, though the region's overall diversion rate is still only 14%. According to the president of the Colorado Recycling Association, decreased revenues from plastic and metal have made the finances challenging, though may also be making recyclers more efficient. The recently opened Phoenix Recycling material recovery facility has helped keep costs down by processing more recyclables locally rather than shipping them out of state.
If the region really wants to make progress it will need to address another key part of the waste stream: organics. An audit by the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments found that organics make up 37% of total waste. The Durango Herald highlights a few small-scale diversion programs, and notes that one local landfill which currently composts yard waste will be moving into food waste next year, but a much larger effort will be needed to capture more of this material.
As shown recently in other states, waste generation can be hard to control. California, known for one of the most advanced waste programs in the country, saw the amount of material sent to landfills increase between 2014 and 2015. Connecticut, which has set ambitious organics diversion goals, saw food waste tonnage increase in recent years as well. Even the most well-intentioned plans can't account for shifts in economic growth and human behavior.