GreenYes Archives

[GreenYes Archives] - [Thread Index] - [Date Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]

[greenyes] Lack of oxygen to the brain and recycling in Denver

The most recent BIOCYCLE survey showed Colorado at a 3% recycling rate.
and here's an example of the mentality that has gotten us there. The
RMN is the state's biggest paper.

Eric at Eco-Cycle
Rocky Mountain News

Recycling plan still wastes cash
February 15, 2004
We've long thought that municipally sponsored recycling is not
economically sound, especially in a place like Colorado which has plenty
of landfill space. People who want to recycle for personal reasons
should expect to pay whatever extra it costs their city. That's what
happens in jurisdictions that don't have city-provided trash service.
But if cities are determined to recycle on the taxpayer dime they should
craft a program that wastes as little money as possible. Denver's plan
to shift to a new one-bin, mix-everything-together system by 2005 sounds
promising in at least that respect.
There's not much argument about the economic inefficiencies of
recycling. In its best year, 2000, Denver's program eked out only a
$64,000 profit on $1.2 million in revenues. The following year, revenues
fell by nearly half and the city hemorrhaged $545,000 on the program.
The reason, in part, was that prices for recycled materials were highly
volatile and kept low by legislative mandates in other states that
ensure supply exceeds the demand.
But another factor, according to Gary Price, director of the solid waste
division of Denver's Public Works Department, was the end of the
"newspaper war." As circulation fell after the two Denver newspapers
entered a joint operating agreement and ended their penny-a-day
subscription offers, so did the amount of newsprint recycled.
In any case, the volume of recycled materials is only a fraction of the
trash Denver collects - some 16,000 to 18,000 tons annually compared
with 260,000 tons of refuse that isn't recycled. And that's only for
single-family residences and small apartment buildings. Apartment
buildings with eight or more units, as well as commercial and industrial
operations, make their own agreements with waste-management firms.
The city currently has 14 trucks collecting recyclables, Price said, and
they pick up every two weeks at the roughly 78,000 households that have
signed up for the program. City workers hoist the contents of the two
bins, one for newsprint and one for cans and bottles. Under the new
plan, the city will have 10 compacting trucks with automatic hoists,
reducing not only work time but workers' injuries.
So far, so good. But why shouldn't the people who want to recycle pay
when they sign up? It's not a lot of money, after all; perhaps $7 per
family in a year when recycling revenues are weak.
But that's exactly the difficulty. The city could probably collect as
much as $7 a year per family as a surcharge on its service bill for
trash pickup - if only there were such a bill. Currently, there is no
fee for trash pickup and Mayor John Hickenlooper has said, no doubt
correctly, that he doesn't believe residents would support one.
Collecting for recycling only - assuming recyling fans would continue to
do it if they had to pay even a notional fee - would probably cost more
to administer than it would be worth.
The sensible thing would be for the city to stop recycling until the
market for it improves or the cost of landfilling increases, if either
of those things ever does occur. But we don't suppose devout recyclers
will allow Denver to be sensible.

Eric Lombardi
Executive Director
Eco-Cycle, Inc
Boulder, CO
"Recycling may not save the world, but the recycling spirit might."

[GreenYes Archives] - [Date Index] - [Thread Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]