Colorado’s recycling rate dropped between 2018 and 2019, falling to 15.9% and remaining well short of the national average of 35%.
“It is the Front Range that shoulders the blame for our wasteful habits,” concluded a new report from Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group. “The region produced 87% of the state’s municipal waste in 2019 and sent 5% more trash to landfills in 2019 than in 2018, greatly outpacing population growth of 1.3%.”
While the report noted that the quantity of diverted materials for recycling and composting has increased over time, the rate has not kept pace with population growth. Loveland, Boulder and Louisville are the only municipalities with diversion rates that exceeded 40%.
Eco-Cycle and PIRG recommended providing automatic curbside recycling as part of trash service. Six of Colorado’s ten largest cities lack that amenity, with residents in Colorado Springs, Aurora, Lakewood and other municipalities needing to subscribe to curbside recycling.
The day after the report’s release, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler committed to a 50% recycling rate for the country by 2030.
“Speaking as an environmentalist, I completely disagree with the view that recycling is something to be left behind in the 1970s,” said Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, in prepared remarks to the America Recycles Summit. “There is more good to be done for America’s environment in the 21st century by increasing our recycling rate than almost any other single activity.”
A national recycling strategy released in October emphasized recycling eligible materials and keeping the recycling stream free of other products; increasing the efficiency of recycling systems; and improving markets for recycled materials. The EPA is soliciting comments on the draft document through Dec. 4.