Fort Collins Struggling with Large Item Recycling

Ft. Collins, CO is looking at new ways to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in its landfills.

The city wants to ramp up their recycling--currently 50%-- to 90%.

As of now, the county recycling center receives 125-150 tons of recyclable material on a daily basis.

Part of their strategy is to look at what is being tossed and why, then focusing on that. They’re not trying to reach zero waste, but get as close to that as possible. It is possible in the commercial sector, as several local businesses, like New Belgium Brewing Co.,  have already exceeded the 90% mark.

While it is easy for businesses to reach zero waste status, they realize that for citizens to reach that point it will require an active effort and certain lifestyle changes in order for the plan to work.

For this reason, trash haulers are required to monitor and refuse the bins that contain too much cardboard, in an effort to increase the rate of recycling.

While curbside recycling has allowed for the percentage of material going to landfills to decrease, it hasn’t really worked for larger items like office furniture, for example.

There is definitely enough enthusiasm from the community--they all want to contribute. A big part of the success of this program lies in the efficiency of the recycling process and the profit it generates. If the community doesn’t know the details of trash separation and recyclable materials, then it makes it that much harder to turn a recycling program into a successful one. More money will need to be spent in sorting waste that was already meant to be sorted by the public in their homes.

This is why a big part of the program is re-educating the public about how to recycle bigger items such as used furniture, appliances, electronics, and building materials. These are often tossed into the trash and end up in landfills, rather than being hauled away by a junk removal service. Adding to the issue is that thrift stores often receive these larger items, some of which they cannot take. They then end up sending them to landfills, defeating the whole purpose of recycling.

Another caveat is cost. New recycling facilities, incentives, and processes always come at a price, which is why there is even more pressure on the city council to turn out a successful recycling program. The revenues could potentially cover the cost of the recycling computers other materials which aren’t your run-of-the-mill items.

It will be interesting to monitor this city’s recycling efforts over time and see how close to zero waste they can get.

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