Is recycling still worth it? KUNC radio hosts Kyra Buckley and Desmond O’Boyle visited three cities in Northern Colorado to find out how they are coping with the changing market. Greeley previously had a drop-off recycling center, which was operated initially through a grant, but was then taken over by contractors. “We had a succession of three contractors eventually walk away from that and say that they couldn’t make money,” says Brad Mueller, Greeley’s director of community development. “The city of Greeley does recognize the importance of recycling, but more importantly, waste diversion.”
He says communities used to save money when recycling. “Then, more recently (city-run recycling programs) could bring it to a distribution center and simply drop it off for no money,” Mueller says. “Now to do that, they actually have to go and pay somebody to take that.”
Greeley offers other programs, like an organic waste site where residents can take things like yard debris. They let private companies fill in the gaps with curbside pick-up for household recyclables. Mueller says there is no plan to re-open a central location for people to bring household recycling.
The Loveland Recycling Center is city-run and serves up to 140,000 people each year. “We take hardbound books, we take plastic film, like grocery bags,” says Tyler Bandermer, Loveland’s solid waste superintendent. “We take concrete porcelain toilets, glass, tires. ”
Bandermer looks like he just walked off a road crew, wearing a neon yellow safety vest and mirrored sunglasses. He says altogether, Loveland accepts more than two dozen types of goods, including things other centers won’t take, like cooking oil and antifreeze.
At the Loveland center, regular items are free to drop off for residents and non-residents. There’s a fee for harder-to-recycle things — and Bandermer says that fee is set just slightly higher than what it costs the city to dispose of it.
Bandermer says Loveland will continue its commitment to recycling even though it’s not as profitable as it used to be. But he says to keep the practice sustainable, there needs to be more education on what actually is recyclable. “If you’re not sure, you probably need to throw it in the trash,” he says. “Just because those contaminants, the more we get in there, the more messes up the system on the whole.”