A special thank you to the Summit for Recycling Host Committee:
Monday, June 5 - 6:00 PM
The Agave Room
Fort Collins, CO
Contact Amy Randell for more information.
Take a walk down memory lane and see past winners.
The recycling industry awards in Colorado recognize excellence in recycling or promotion of recycling
Each year, Colorado Association for Recycling seeks nominations for our annual Recycling Awards. These prestigious awards recognize governmental entities, individuals, companies, and organizations for their excellence in recycling.
The 2017 awards will be presented at the Recycling Awards Gala Monday, June 5, at the Agave Room in Fort Collins during the 28th annual Summit for Recycling. Dinner, entertainment and transportation provided.
Purchase tickets ($55)
Alpine Waste and Recycling
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, is a blessings and a curse. Its light weight and durability make it a popular packaging material. But currently in the U.S., it is recycled at a rate of 10 to 12 percent each year. Cities all over the country are banning or considering banning EPS foam plates and food containers. By all accounts, Styrofoam is a renegade petroleum material looking for a recycling solution. Polystyrene makes up only about 5% of a foam package; the rest is air. Because it's so light, Styrofoam takes up 0.01 percent of the total municipal solid waste stream by weight. But its volume takes up considerable space in landfills, where it takes centuries to degrade. Although some communities recycle polystyrene (#6) plastic, very few recycle EPS foam.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, 99 percent of recyclers do not accept even sorted Styrofoam items because it's difficult to recycle and takes significant upfront investments in machinery. Plus – given its light weight -- transporting Styrofoam to a recycler is relatively cost prohibitive unless the facility can handle large volume input and processing. Enter Alpine Waste & Recycling!
Last summer, Alpine Waste & Recycling’s Altogether Recycling Plant in south Adams County spent $5.5 million on an expansion and re-tooling. The plant accepts single-stream material from commercial and residential sources and sorts it via high-end, mostly hands-free, robotic technology. This advanced equipment put the facility in a perfect position to begin accepting unsorted Styrofoam. At around the same time, Alpine received the first ever Foam Recycling Coalition grant ($45,000) from the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) in Virginia to buy and install a densifier machine that shreds, presses and turns EPS foam into polystyrene bricks weighing approximately 60 pounds. Those bricks can be shipped all over the world to be reused. Alpine installed the Styrofoam-recycling equipment in September 2015, tested it extensively, and determined in late October 2015 that they had successfully integrated the machinery into their single-stream operations. Then they were ready to serve customers commercially.
For the first time, there is now a recycling company in Colorado able to accept EPS foam items in large quantities as part of a single-stream process and able to package it and ship it to a plant where the material can be remade into other EPS products.
The program is in its relative infancy. Alpine is running the densifier five to six times per day, for about a half hour at a time. So far, the machinery has required relatively little maintenance. Since October 2015, Alpine has recycled 20 tons of EPS foam. Considering how lightweight this material is by nature, you can imagine how much Styrofoam that represents, and how much landfill space it has saved -- just in those five months. Alpine hasn’t measured the Styrofoam prior to its densification in the new machinery, but they estimate that it would most likely fill up the entire Altogether Recycling Plant (50,000 square feet). The densified material is stored on pallets in the plant, and it recently went out in its first shipment, filling an entire, 40-foot semi-trailer. Alpine projects that the company will fill the next semi-trailer within three months.
Integrating the new process into the single-stream sorting line was a challenge. Alpine picked a spot in the line where they could manually remove the material and load it into a large chute, which feeds the machine. But because of the increase in material volume due to PR and outreach efforts, Alpine will need a larger chute (at least twice as big) or a large storage bunker to hold the material prior to densification, or a combination of the two.
Another challenge is educating consumers who don’t know exactly which foam materials are eligible for recycling. Alpine provides lists of specific recyclable items and ensures that sales reps are always available to consult with customers who have questions. Alpine was excited to partner with the FPI on this project, and worked closely with the institute to make sure they understood all the expectations that accompanied the grant. While the volume estimate of 50,000-square feet (three-story building) within a five-month period is difficult to confirm, Alpine is convinced that it has already diverted a considerable amount of Styrofoam from landfills. FPI president Lynn Dyer had good words to say about Alpine when explaining why it was chosen as the first Foam Recycling Coalition grantee. "One of the things that we really liked about their program was that it seems like they've been on the forefront of looking at different types of materials that you can recycle," she said.
In January 2015, Lake County had only one drop-off site for recycling, located several miles outside of Leadville with limited hours of operation, and no curb-side pick-up service. The community waste diversion rate had dipped below 5%. Revenue generated from recycled commodities was limited by storage, processing and transportation inefficiencies.
To develop solutions to these issues, the community’s recycling task force got to work. And Michael Irwin, the landfill manager in Lake County, was the driving force behind some dramatic changes.
Lake County now has two additional recycling drop-off sites that are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It has also improved how it processes and sells recycled materials, increasing storage capacities, so that now the county has room to separate materials and and sell them individually to get a better price. With this new method, the first load of cardboard went for four times the amount the county was previously getting.
The new drop-off sites pair free recycling with a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) trash drop. This is an innovative model to incentivize recycling and has paid off for Lake County, which has doubled it’s recycling rate. There was a lot of skepticism about the model as Irwin worked with partners, particularly Cloud City Conservation Center, to get the drop-off sites approved at the local-government level. Many people voiced concerns that while PAYT made sense, it would be very hard to implement. Irwin was steadfast in his support of the project throughout a tough public input period and contentious public appearances.
The drop-off sites have changed the way the community views recycling. The sites are tidy and well managed with few illegal dumping problems. Community members volunteer to monitor sites through Cloud City Conservation Center, which also partners with the county to conduct outreach in every K-12 classroom and the community.
Now that the drop-off sites are up and running, serving more than 5,000 people annually, the community has rallied behind them for the ease of access they provide.
Boulder Food Rescue
For the past five years, Boulder Food Rescue (BFR) has been working non-stop to change the way our world views food waste with innovative solutions and direct social impact. In the United States, 45% of the food we produce goes to waste, while one in six individuals are without adequate access to nutritional foods. For Boulder Food Rescue, this is not simply a case of proper waste management or diversion. It is a complicated systemic issue and a multifaceted crisis.
Since its conception by five committed friends in 2011, BFR has redirected 1.2 million pounds of food in the City of Boulder, 84% of which was diverted by volunteers on bicycles with trailers in all weather conditions. Food is distributed to programs serving the elderly, runaway youth, the homeless, and low-income residents. Every week there are approximately 56 pick-ups or about 4,000 pounds of food rescued.
What makes BFR special is the commitment its founding members (now 3 staff) made to the educational aspects of its programs. Food-waste issues are diverse and complicated. To help find long-term solutions, BFR hosts an annual public conference, the “Forward Food Summit,” for professionals in the food waste and social justice industries. Last year’s conference focused on intersections of race and food insecurity, and this year the event highlights intersections of food and economic justice.
BFR strives to provide solutions for companies and programs in Boulder and works hard to engage with those groups to make sure their needs are being met. The small staff at BFR regularly organizes meals with different recipient sites to offer a space for volunteers and food recipients to meet each other and grow together as a community. BFR is open to feedback from recipients about the type of food they receive, and makes sure that nutritional and cultural food preferences are satisfied as much as possible. To engage the general public, BFR sponsors a meal every Saturday in the summer served outdoors in downtown Boulder that is open to anyone looking for a delicious lunch. It’s an oportunity for BFR to provide education about food waste and bicycling and a chance for the community to catch up with each other.
BFR has established a model that is catching on across the world. In addition to Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs, the program has traveled to 29 cities worldwide who have collectively rescued 2.3 million pounds, utilizing 1.57 thousand volunteers and their bicycles.
BFR has learned that providing a service does not solve a problem. Hunger and food waste exist simultaneously and neither problem is solved simply through diversion. BFR believes that it is only by engaging with individuals, building relationships on mutual respect, understanding needs and wants, and weaving a new community aware of its own short comings that we can empower society to begin to solve these issues.
Councilor Jan Vigil, City of Alamosa
As councilor for the City of Alamosa since November 2013, Jan Vigil has encouraged and initiated changes to make the city more eco-friendly.
First, Councilor Vigil proposed that services at the recycling center be expanded to include accepting glass. This led to the purchase of a glass pulverizer by the city. Because of Vigil’s leadership, the City of Alamosa will save $14.20 per ton by processing glass in the pulverizer instead of sending it to the landfill. And by using the pulverized glass locally, the city will save on transportaton costs.
Vigil then introduced the issue of converting the city’s street lights from high-pressure sodium fixtures to LED technology. At the time, Xcel Energy had not adopted an LED tariff that would make it possible for the city to realize the savings associated with lower power consumption. The city continued to investigate ways to phase in the new technology, however. And now that Xcel Energy has implemented a rebate program, the City Council voted unanimously to pursue the conversion of the street lights, bringing Vigil’s vision to reality.
While Vigil’s leadership to reduce the use of plastic bags has not resulted in the implementation of a new program, his encouragement of public dialogue created an opportunity to test the public’s desire for different green initiatives. Vigil researched possilbe structures for a plastic bag program and the community was invited to a public meeting to weigh in on the topic. The city learned that while there are groups that are very much in support of a possible program, those who were opposed not only out-numbered those in support, they were also more passionate.
It was revealed at the meeting that some stores were already collecting and recycling plastic bags, and it became apparent that there needed to be better promotion of these alternatives (several stores have since improved their outreach). Also several groups acknowledged the need for neighborhood clean-ups, and many residents indicated that they were interested in curbside recycling. During the meeting, leaders emerged to support these issues that were not receiving much attention previously.
The City has since added the task of evaluating the feasibility of creating a curbside recycling program to its bid for a utility rate assessment. The information will help the community understand the costs of curbside recycling and allow for an informed discussion on the possibility of creating one.
Shari Malloy has been the backbone of recycling advocacy in the City of Longmont as a long-time Eco-Cycle volunteer, community activist, and recycling and composting champion.
Malloy got her start as a recycling champion in Longmont in the 1990s, when she helped with the curbside recycling program as a volunteer region leader for Eco-Cycle. Malloy was also a key member in the effort to open Longmont’s recycling drop-off facility and has been a key volunteer in recycling education outreach programs for the past ten years. Most recently, Malloy has been an integral part of the citizen group Citizens for Curbside Composting, which has motivated the Longmont community and city council to support the addition of a curbside organics program and strengthen the pay-as-you-throw trash rate system.
Malloy is a natural leader. Everyone in Longmont knows her and loves her for her dedication. Malloy tirelessly works to better her community, and Eco-Cycle and the City of Longmont would be hard-pressed to successfully promote recycling and the new composting program without her.
Brittany Evans, Clear Intentions
Brittany Evans has worked in the recycling industry for the past eight years and has played an integral role in the successful implementation of glass recycling within municipalities and businesses. With extensive experience in business sustainability, management, and leadership, she is primarily responsible for the success of her company, Clear Intentions.
Evans is an entrepreneur at heart. Her early passion for the environment led her to recycling where she discovered that Colorado only recycled about 17 percent of the glass collected in recycling programs. The remainder of the collected glass is taken to landfills throughout the state, either to be disposed of or reused once as landfill liner or cover. As someone who inherently values the world in which we live, Evans knew she couldn't stand idly by and watch as nothing was being done about this very big problem.
When she was first entered the industry, Evans was told she would never be able to change the way glass was collected and that she could never collect enough cullet to be competitive in the industry. Evans committed herself to learning about recycling programs throughout the world, how they could be applied to her business, and how the existing process could be improved to provide better results. Evans then went outside the box, designing her own program and collection infrastructure.
The energy saved from recycling just ONE glass bottle (0.437 pounds) can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours or a compact fluorescent bulb for 20 hours. Recycling one bottle also releases 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials. In 2015, it’s first year of operation, Clear Intentions recovered more than 600,000 pounds of glass (that’s almost 1.4 million bottles).
Evans believes in education, public solutions, and giving back to the community. One program directly connected to these ideals is Clear Intentions’ glass drop-off stations. The program provides public glass drop-off locations at easily accessible spots, such as liquor and grocery stores, throughout Denver and Fort Collins. The drop-off stations allow residents to separate their glass so that 100% of it can be reused in the economy. The program partners with non-profits and donates $1 back to the community for every full glass station collected.
Evans and her team at Clear Intentions are on a mission to create new infrastructure in Colorado to support a zero-waste future. When it comes to conducting a business, Evans knows sustainability cannot come last and should be incorporated directly into the bottom line from the start.
Marjorie Griek (Marjie to most who know her) started her career in recycling working with the Boulder/Weld Soil Conservation Service and CSU Extension on a pilot on-farm composting project in Weld County. Two years (and 650,000 pounds of manure later, she would wryly note!) the program was a success and proved to feed-lot owners that composting manure was an effective way to deal with a waste product while also producing an excellent soil amendment.
Griek then worked for Weld County Health Department where she spent five years doing a variety of jobs. As a compost technician, she trained Master Composters and developed demonstration backyard composting and gardening sites throughout the county. She was appointed as a pollution prevention advisor to organize Buy Recycled events for residents and businesses and to advise businesses on how to switch to less toxic products and make more environmentally responsible choices. Griek worked closely with the City of Greeley in her role as recycling coordinator for the county, convening meetings with staff, haulers, citizens and elected officials in an attempt to implement pay-as-you-throw collection.
During her time at Weld County, Griek became involved in an ad-hoc group organized by the Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation (OEMC). After a change in administration that led to elimination of funding for recycling programs, OEMC staff helped the group join up with the Colorado Association for Recycling (CAFR). At the time, CAFR was a very small group of about 20 members with a budget of $4,000, three board members and no staff. When the OEMC group joined CAFR, they increased the board to fifteen members. Griek served as treasurer that first year, then was elected president for the next two years. CAFR worked strategically to accumulate funding to hire a part-time executive director. At this point, Griek resigned as president, applied for the executive director position and was hired; she went on to provide exemplary staffing and leadership to CAFR for many years.
During her tenure, CAFR grew significantly, earning credibility throughout the state and the rest of the country. CAFR now has about 225 members, an annual budget of over $200,000, two staff and three contractors. Over the nearly 14 years of Griek's stewardship, CAFR:
In addition to her work with CAFR, Marjorie volunteered overseas, working with the underprivileged to help build capacity in their recycling programs, develop strategic plans, train composters, negotiate better working conditions and aid with market development.
Griek was a member of National Recycling Coalition's (NRC) Recycling Organization Council (ROC), chairing that committee for two years. During her time with the ROC, members shared best practices that helped CAFR improve its organizational development tools.
When NRC faltered, Griek helped start Recycling Organizations of North America (RONA), which acted as a backup group until NRC recovered. RONA was responsible for creating a national standards system to certify recycling education programs and for starting a Campus Council that links students with real-world materials management experience.
Griek is now Sr. Vice President of the National Recycling Coalition and principle of Pearl Consulting, a firm specializing in materials management issues.
Many members of CAFR are deeply appreciative of Griek's enormous positive impacts within the industry throughout her career. She has helped elevate awareness of recycling and composting among legislators, economic development representatives, and the sustainability community. Griek has an uncanny knack for bringing together disparate groups to solve problems and to work towards a common goal - her skills are always applied with respect for participants and a playful sense of humor that creates conviviality. Griek has been a extremely important leader for Colorado and a very real inspiration to many.