Recycling Basics

This information is intended to promote and encourage recycling and assist those wishing to recycle such as business and industry (set up your own recycling program), governments (see case studies for decision makers) and schools (tools for teachers and students).

Top 5 Recycling Questions

How does Colorado compare to other "green" recycling states?

Colorado is not doing a great job with recycling relative to the rest of the nation. In 2017, 12% of the municipal waste stream was recycled or composted in Colorado; the rate for the rest of the nation was about 35%. About half of the counties in Colorado have recycling available for residents at the curb.

Do recyclables really get recycled?

Recyclables have value and once separated from trash and collected as recyclables, are very rarely thrown into landfills. Recyclables are sold to markets for a profit (revenues can vary depending on local and international economies). It does not make business sense to separately collect recyclables and then pay to put something in a landfill that has value in the markets.

Video: Get an in-depth look at the single-stream recycling process at the Boulder County Recycling Center. The 15-minute tour begins at the curbside recycling bin and follows the single-stream materials to the tipping floor of the Boulder County Recycling Center.

Does recycling reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Even taking into account the recycling trucks on the road and transportation impacts, the embedded energy recovered in recyclables dramatically outweighs the emissions from transportation.

How can I recycle?

Recycling services vary depending on where you are located. Contact your waste hauler or your local government office for options in your area. You can also search Recycle Colorado's member directory for recyclers.

Why isn't recycling free for all households?

Someday it may be free, but right now recycling is only cheaper than trash service. On average, a collection hauler will charge a household around $3-$5/month to collect recycling and around $8-$12/month (or more) to collect trash. The actual recyclables are only a portion of a hauler’s total budget and expenses. To collect recyclables haulers must still purchase trucks and carts/bins, staff the trucks to collect the materials, purchase fuel, provide maintenance, etc. These costs are nearly the same for recycling as for trash. However recycling, unlike trash, once collected can be sold as a commodity. Haulers must pay to dispose of trash in a landfill.

 

Facts, Figures and Data

Colorado recycling rates from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

The Economics of Recycling: Reports from States and Others - February 2018 (PDF)

Integrated Solid Waste & Materials Management Plan - June 2016 (PDF)

Economic Study of Recycling in Colorado - November 2014 (PDF)

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in the United States: Facts and Figures from the EPA

EPA's WAste Reduction Model (WaRM) was created to help solid waste planners and organizations estimate the energy and greenhouse gas emissions reductions from several different waste management practices. Individual WAste Reduction (iWaRM) is the consumer version of WARM – it helps you understand the energy saved by recycling small quantities of common household products, rather than landfilling them.

More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in the U.S. (PDF), produced by the Tellus Institute, provides strong evidence that an enhanced national recycling and composting strategy in the United States can significantly and sustainably address critical national priorities including climate change, lasting job creation, and improved health.

Fact Sheets

Recycling and Climate Change: Reducing GHG Emissions, Pollution, and Energy Consumption Using Materials Management Strategies (PDF)
Recycling: A Cornerstone of Sustainability(PDF)
Recycling and the Economy: Grow Jobs and Increase Economic Development(PDF)
Bottle Bill: Why Doesn't Colorado Have One?(PDF)
Don't Trash the Holidays (PDF)