- 4:14:51 PM
Eco-Cycle facilitates 'zero waste' for businesses
By Barbara Hey
BOULDER - There's a revolution afoot, and Boulder's own
Eco-Cycle is leading the charge.
In this era of vanishing resources and climate change, the
concept of garbage is getting tossed, and in its place has arisen a new
paradigm: zero waste.
Landfills are the black holes of garbage, the long-used end
of the line for refuse, much of which could and should be recycled,
according to Eric Lombardi, executive director of Eco-Cycle. But dumps
and incinerators leak pollutants into the atmosphere, soil and water
"Zero waste is the cheapest, quickest and most
efficient way to reduce greenhouse gases," Lombardi said. "We
have a comprehensive plan for zero waste, and it's truly unique."
This plan is shared freely with any interested community
interested in a garbage revolution and has made Eco-Cycle the go-to
organization nationally and internationally for how to achieve a
Eco-Cycle's initiative has earned it the Boulder County
Business Report's IQ Award in the Sustainable category.
Based on how Eco-Cycle works with local governments,
Lombardi also offers a business model to make this prototype center a
collaborative venture between governments and nonprofits.
Eco-Cycle was started in 1976 by a group of local residents
who introduced curbside recycling to Boulder - making it one of the
pioneering communities in the recycling movement.
The nonprofit, which now has outposts in Longmont and
Broomfield, still processes all recyclables collected by local haulers
and operates the county-owned Boulder County Recycling Center. In 2001,
the Center for Hard-to-Recycle Material, or CHaRM, debuted as the first
community recycling center in the state for electronics.
By necessity, Eco-Cycle has modified its mission from
minimizing to eliminating waste.
The next push - zero waste - entails uber-recycling. In
addition to what has been tossed in the recycling bin for 32 years -
bottles, cans and paper - this effort encompasses all things electronic,
household goods, athletic shoes and cooking oil. The goal is to dump
next-to-nothing in the landfill.
An additional and critical piece of the plan is composting
all biodegradable material _ foods scraps, paper and yard waste. If
organic matter is tossed without first degrading in a controlled
environment, its decomposition generates methane, a greenhouse gas
"72 times more potent" than carbon dioxide.
According to "Stop Trashing the Planet," a report
co-authored by Eco-Cycle, reducing waste by just 1 percent could have
climate benefits equivalent to shutting down 21 percent of the U.S.
coal-fired power plants.
On the home front, Eco-Cycle carries out its goal to make
this a zero-waste community in multiple ways. One is the Zero Waste
Services for businesses, which for the past five years has worked with
area companies, large and small, to offer education and training on ways
to reduce waste.
Currently about 800 businesses participate on some level,
which can range from recycling paper and containers to hard-to-recycle
materials, like printer cartridges and copy machines.
Included is an assessment of current throwaway habits and
education for employees to better understand what to dispose of where.
Eco-Cycle provides full-service pickup of recyclables, compostables and
Businesses "earn their stripes" by their degree of
participation with recycling and composting, and also by adopting
zero-waste purchasing practices, which means opting for products that are
readily recyclable and made according to sustainable principles.
To facilitate enlightened purchases, Eco-Cycle has launched
an e-Store on its Web site, www.ecocycle.org, listing sources for buying
environmentally friendly products.
Eco-Cycle promotes participating businesses on its Web site,
another benefit of signing on to the zero-waste effort.
"(Businesses) get it," Lombardi said. "They
understand doing the right thing does not break the bank, and doing
anything cheap and dirty will catch up with you in the end."
Beckie and Toby Hemmerling have always been vigilant that
their company, the Organic Dish, keeps waste to a minimum by composting and
recycling. They took it one step further when they signed up with
"It was great. When they do the audit, they go through
your trash and tell you where everything should go," Beckie said.
The Hemmerlings now also recycle hard-to-recycle materials,
such as Ziploc bags and other plastics, at CHaRM.
"We bought some plastic bags that even said
'compostable' on them but weren't," Beckie said.
Eco-Cycle defined the real makeup of the bags, so that they
could be disposed of properly.
Another enthusiastic proponent of Eco-Cycle is Barry Siff,
owner of 5430 Sports, which puts on triathlons with upward of 7,000
"Eco-Cycle's guidance and support has made it easy to
recycle and compost at our events, dramatically reducing what we send to
the landfill," Siff said. "We stress zero waste in our
promotional materials and at our events and hope our participants gain
knowledge and are inspired to do it at home."