- A new report released by non-profit groups Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG) and Eco-Cycle is calling out Denver's "abysmal" residential diversion rate of 18%, as reported by The Denver Post. Apartment buildings with more than seven units — one-third of the city's housing stock — aren't required to recycle and this is highlighted as a key issue.
- The city's "upside-side down" rate structure is also called out because it uses property taxes from businesses to pay for municipal collections and doesn't put any financial responsibility on residents. The report advocates moving toward a pay-as-you-throw system and also dropping the current $10 charge for residential organics collection.
- The report says that in order to spur change the city needs to set a "zero waste" or 90% diversion rate goal, as well as a goal of doubling business recycling rates by 2020.
While the report says Denver doesn't stack up well against local cities, or similar-sized cities in other parts of the country, it may not be so easy to make direct comparisons due to the way rates are calculated. With that in mind it's clear that the city has potential to improve. The logistics of providing recycling for multi-unit buildings can be challenging — as seen recently in Toronto, Chicago and Detroit — but that is a good first step to capturing more material.
Focusing on organic waste is also another logical step. New data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that food comprises nearly 22% of the material going to landfills and waste-to-energy facilities. The Natural Resources Defense Council is also looking at Denver as part of a multi-city waste characterization study which should provide more detailed information. Free organics collection is something that Denver has expressed an interest in before, though the realities of doing that may be more complicated.
Denver could have a hard time reaching its goal of 34% diversion by 2020, let alone "zero waste," though the region already has some factors working in its favor to head in that direction. Locally-based Alpine Waste & Recycling recently upgraded its material recovery facility to enhance glass diversion, Eco-Cycle's Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials can handle a wide range of items and local renters have indicated that recycling is a top priority.