Going for Green in Lyons

By Eco-Cycle Staff
Colorado generated a record 9.3 million tons of waste in 2017, according to the second annual State of Recycling in Colorado report, released earlier this month by Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG). While waste generation was up, the report found that the state’s recycling rate remained stagnant at 12 percent, well below the national average of 35 percent.

The report’s city-by-city breakdown found that Loveland (61 percent), Boulder (52 percent), and Louisville (44 percent) continue to have the best residential recycling rates. Fort Collins has the best overall recycling rate for residential, commercial, and industrial waste (55 percent), and Aspen’s -residential recycling rate of 40 percent is the best outside of the Front Range.

The Town of Lyons did not provide recycling data for the new report. However, in 2016, Lyons had a 35 percent residential recycling rate; a 32 percent commercial recycling rate; and an overall recycling rate of 33 percent.

“Colorado’s low recycling rate comes as a shock to most people who think of us as a ‘green’ state,” said Kate Bailey, Eco-Cycle’s Director of Research and Policy and the report’s lead author. “The truth is, 95 percent of what we throw away could have been recycled or composted. With strong state leadership, Colorado is well-positioned to move forward quickly to realize the environmental and economic benefits of increased recycling,” she said. “Increasing our recycling rate statewide is one of the fastest, easiest steps we can take to reduce carbon pollution.”

The new report offers recently elected Governor Jared Polis four recommendations to reverse Colorado’s upward trash trend, including setting recycling and composting goals for state agencies, hiring a statewide Recycling Coordinator, and aggressively pursuing ways to attract new recycling businesses. The goal is to foster a circular economy where glass, bottles, cans, and other recyclable materials stay in Colorado and are remanufactured into new products in a much more environmentally sustainable way.

Eco-Cycle and CoPIRG offered four actions that Governor-elect Jared Polis can take starting in January, including:

1. Appoint a statewide Recycling Coordinator to coordinate and implement solutions with other state agencies, the state’s climate action plan, and local governments. 

2. Launch a Recycling Market Development Initiative to attract and expand recycling businesses. Most of the paper, metal, and plastics collected for recycling are currently shipped out of state, or out of the country. Instead we need to create new businesses in Colorado to reuse and recycle as many of our materials as possible to keep the economic benefits, including jobs, here in Colorado.

3. Create a Statewide Waste Diversion Funding Task Force to study and recommend ways to increase funding for reduction, reuse, recycling, and remanufacturing. Colorado collects a small fee of $0.46 per ton of waste sent to landfills and uses the money to support recycling programs. We are far behind other states, such as Ohio and Wisconsin, which allocate between $2 and $7 per ton to recycling. Colorado’s rate is insufficient to achieve statewide recycling goals. The task force should make recommendations to the Governor and the legislature by January 1st, 2020.

4. Lead by example by expanding recycling and composting at state agencies, purchasing compost for state projects, and setting recycling goals for state construction projects.
What’s the magic behind a successful recycling program? According to the report, leading Colorado cities have two things in common: they provide curbside residential recycling automatically alongside trash collection so residents don’t have to call and ask for it; and they offer curbside pick-up or convenient drop-off programs for yard debris, such as leaves and branches.

“We already know what it takes to do better,” said Eco-Cycle’s Bailey. “We just need a coordinated state effort to really jumpstart our progress.”
Download the report here: http://ecocycle.org/take-action/zerowastecolorado.

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