Several members of the Colorado Legislature’s Zero Waste and Recycling Interim Committee toured recycling facilities in Boulder, Larimer and Broomfield counties to better understand how they could craft legislation to boost Colorado’s recycling system.
The main difference between Colorado and California, according to Kate Bailey, the solutions director for Eco-Cycle, is the cost of landfills is nearly twice as high in more densely populated areas of California, which also make those areas more attractive to the companies that repurpose recycled material.
“We need to be selling materials out our backdoor to cover our costs,” Bailey said. “With recycling being more expensive than landfills, what makes this facility work right now is that cities have recycling programs that bring us their materials for free, but we need to be focused on creating end markets for our material so we offset future costs.”
End-market businesses would not only make recycling centers more profitable, but also would reduce the costs and environmental impact of shipping sorted material to end-market businesses out of state, she said.
The first step, Bailey said, is to make municipal recycling programs more prevalent. Currently, only 15 cities in Colorado automatically provide households with a recycling cart, while 25 counties provide no curbside recycling at all. In many of those areas, drop-off centers are also few and far between.
With more municipal recycling programs, the price of recycling will fall as convenience increases, allowing the state to produce more material for end-market businesses to repurpose, incentivizing them to open factories in Colorado and allowing them to not only divert more waste from the landfills, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Baily and Dan Matsch, the manager of Eco-Cycle’s Center for Hard to Recycle Materials.