Residents, businesses and a Fort Collins Utilities soils recovery project helped increase the City’s diversion rate – the amount recycled or composted compared with total waste generated – to 64.6 percent in 2013, up from 58.7 percent in 2012.
How much trash is that per person? Based on the 2013 population of 151,300 residents, Fort Collins generated 4.85 pounds of trash or landfill-bound material per capita per day. In 2012, per capita trash measured 5.12 pounds per day.
City officials attribute the success to several factors including internal City programs that divert waste from industrial operations, increased concrete and asphalt recycling, and a year-old ordinance that prohibits cardboard in the trash.
“The community diversion rate increased by nearly 6 percent from 2012 to 2013, which is very significant compared with waste and recycling trends throughout the United States,” said Caroline Mitchell, environmental planner in the Environmental Services department at the City. “Community diversion rates are rarely observed to change this dramatically in one year.”
In March 2013, the City implemented a new ordinance prohibiting the disposal of cardboard in the City’s waste stream. Since then, cardboard-only collection from businesses rose by 94.8 percent. The City also witnessed an 8.9 percent increase in cardboard recycled at the City’s Recycling Drop-Off Center and an increase in the amount of single-stream recyclables collected from businesses (2.6 percent) and residents (3.5 percent).
Additionally, a new Soils Recovery Project in Fort Collins Utilities is solely responsible for a 44.6 percent decrease in the amount of material City government hauled to the landfill while significantly increasing recycling.
The City of Fort Collins self-hauls material to the landfill from industrial operations such as repairing water pipes and maintaining stormwater collection areas. Typically, a significant percentage of this excavated material is made up of wet soils mixed with plant debris, rock, concrete, and metal. In 2013, Fort Collins Utilities implemented a program to dry out wet soils and screen out the rock, concrete, and metals for reuse or recycling. Soils are now reused for construction and engineering purposes after being dried out and screened.
The increased diversion rate is a significant step toward meeting the goal of recycling or composting 75 percent of materials by 2020, set by City Council in December 2013. Additional goals set at that time include a 90 percent diversion rate by 2025 and reaching for zero waste by 2030, as well as a per-capita goal of 2.8 pounds of trash per day by 2025.