As landfills reach capacity and environmental issues become increasingly hot topics, a Boulder-based recycling organization wants to increase awareness of zero-waste recycling.
About 40 people recently gathered at the senior center to hear Eco-Cycle explain a new concept that is gaining recognition across the county.
The goal of zero-waste is to be able to recycle or reuse all solid waste. Zero-waste programs encourage manufacturers to create products that are reusable, recyclable or recoverable, for communities to invest in recycling infrastructure and not incinerators, and for the federal government to end the subsidization of virgin materials industries such as timber and mining.
Counties and cities across Colorado are investigating and experimenting with zero-waste policies and options.
“We are making progress, but are still a long way off from zero waste,” said Suzie Gordon, an environmental planner for the City of Fort Collins, who informed attendees about the steps Fort Collins is taking in their environmental programs.
Gordon said the city’s current goal is to recycle half of the waste that is going into landfills by 2010. Gordon will present 24 preliminary recommendations to the City Council on March 29 that they feel will help accomplish this goal.
Local companies are beginning to practice zero-waste too.
“We have quite a robust recycling process,” said a facilities manager for Hewlett Packard. “We are currently diverting 83.6 percent of waste from landfills, with a huge portion of that being electronics.”
In addition, the Fort Collins Anheuser-Busch brewery is diverting between 95 and 98 percent of its waste, while the local New Belgium Brewery waste diversion level is up to 99 percent.
Zero-waste is gaining international favor as well.
Norway taxes landfills and incinerators in an effort to promote prevention and recovery of waste. The European Union plans to get rid of landfill use between 2017 and 2018.
Recovery and remanufacturing of waste creates more jobs than landfills and incinerators. Eco-Cycle cited that Novia Scotia’s waste diversion plan produced a net savings in the range of $31 million to $167 million and created 1,000 new net jobs.
The audience seemed pleased with the steps Fort Collins is taking to improve its recycling policies.
“I came because I have a general interest in the environment and recycling and I heard the speaker was dynamic,” said Ed Orosz, a software engineer and CSU alumnus.
This presentation was part of a larger series of Fort Collins programs known as Front Range’s Rethinking Recycling initiative, aimed at improving recycling in Northern Colorado.
“We were looking for the public’s instinctive reactions to what we were telling them,” Gordon said. “We couldn’t have been more thrilled with the turnout.”
Mary Swanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
– 600 curbside recycling programs in the United States.
– More than 9,340 programs
– More than 12,000 drop-off centers
– 480 materials recovery facilities to process collected materials.
– U.S. recycling rate: 17 percent
– Estimated at 30 percent
The number and availability of recycled products has increased. In 1990, the Recycled Products Guide listed 70 items; today, more than 5,000 recycled-content products are available.
In 1999, recycling and composting diverted 64 million tons of material from landfills and incinerators, up from 34 million tons in 1990.
In 2000, 45.5 percent of the total paper generated in the United States was recycled, up from 28 percent in 1990.
Source: The Environmental Protection Agency