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Colorado generated record amount of waste in 2017, recycling rates remain stagnant

Coloradans generated a record 9.3 million tons of waste last year, though recycling rates remained below the national average.

DENVER — Colorado generated a record amount of waste in 2017, but recycling rates in the state remained stagnant and well below the national average of 35 percent, according a new report by Eco-Cycle and CoPIRG.

The second annual State of Recycling in Colorado report found that, on average, each Colorado resident throws away nearly eight pounds of trash per day. That added up to a record 9.3 million tons of waste in 2017.

Loveland, Boulder and Louisville continue to have the best recycling rates for single-family homes in the state – all with recycling rates over 40 percent, according to the report’s city-by-city breakdown. Statewide, Colorado's average recycling rate remains at 12 percent.

Right now, 27 cities and 30 counties in Colorado collect recycling data to report. Edgewater, Morrison, New Castle, Rifle and Silt all reported recycling data for the first time in this year’s report.

Here’s a look at recycling rates for cities mentioned in the report:

  • Loveland - 61 percent
  • Boulder - 52 percent
  • Louisville - 44 percent
  • Aspen - 40 percent
  • Longmont - 40 percent
  • Lafayette - 38 percent
  • Golden - 34 percent
  • Fort Collins - 29 percent
  • Greenwood Village - 27 percent
  • Rifle - 23 percent
  • Superior - 23 percent
  • Denver - 22 percent
  • Lone Tree - 20 percent
  • Sheridan -20 percent
  • Edgewater - 18 percent
  • Grand Junction - 17 percent
  • Vail - 17 percent
  • Morrison - 16 percent
  • Silt - 16 percent
  • New Castle - 14 percent
  • Fruita - 11 percent
  • Northglenn - 11 percent
  • Montrose - 9 percent

The study recommends increasing recycling rates statewide to 28 percent in an effort to reduce carbon emission by over 2.2 million tons every year. That would be the equivalent of taking over 485,000 cars off the road annually, according to the report.

Also mentioned in the report is how Colorado throws away nearly $265 million worth of recyclable material like aluminum, cardboard, paper, glass and plastics.

“Colorado’s low recycling rate comes as a shock to most people who think of us as a ‘green’ state,” Eco-Cycle’s Director of Research and Policy and the report’s lead author, Kate Bailey, said. “The truth is, 95 percent of what we throw away could have been recycled or composted.”

The report pointed out a correlation of higher recycling rates among cities that either provided curbside residential recycling automatically alongside trash collection or offered curbside pick-up or convenient drop-of programs for yard debris like leaves and branches had better recycling rates overall.

“We already know what it takes to do better,” Bailey said. “We just need a coordinated state effort to really jumpstart our progress.”

The report also made four recommendations for Governor-Elect Jared Polis to consider for reversing Colorado’s upward trash trend – like setting recycling goals for cities and pursuing ways to attract new recycling businesses.

You can read the full report by clicking or tapping this link.