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All Things Recycling: A Community Conversation About Waste Diversion in Golden

sustainability meetingWhat’s going on in the world of recycling these days? Where is my recycling going and what’s the deal with China no longer accepting materials? Is Styrofoam recyclable? What about coffee cups? The City of Golden Community Sustainability Advisory Board (CSAB) invites community members to “All Things Recycling: A Community Conversation About Waste Diversion in Golden” from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at the Buffalo Rose, 1119 Washington Ave. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Hear the latest information industry experts about where our materials go, recent changes in the industry, and how your family can participate in organic waste collection and other waste diversion programs. In light of recent media reports about shrinking Chinese markets and contamination issues, this event will answer your questions and show how Golden’s local materials are getting to market.

During this free event, attendees will have the opportunity to sign up for tours of the local recycling facility and the City’s Organics Collection Program (compost!). The Buffalo Rose has generously provided the space for the event, and will be offering food and drinks for purchase. With prize drawings, giveaways, and hands-on learning activities, the All Things Recycling event is perfect for families to learn how to increase your participation in the various City programs and help us achieve Golden’s waste reduction goals. For more information, contact Golden Sustainability at goldensustainability@cityofgolden.net

Help Prioritize Our Community’s Sustainability Initiatives

Last year, the Golden community weighed in on updating the 10-year old Sustainability Goals. With your help, Golden adopted new goals this past February. Now we need your help again to prioritize the great ideas for projects and policies that came from the community. Join us Wednesday, October 9 at the American Mountaineering Center to give your input to the Community Sustainability Advisory Board (CSAB) on numerous sustainability initiatives. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with a presentation starting at 7 p.m. The event will conclude at 9 p.m.

Your input will be used to show community support (or opposition of) recommendations of new programs and will also be used to update the City of Golden Sustainability Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan is a roadmap to meeting Golden’s ambitious sustainability goals, including new policies and plans for consideration. For more information, contact Golden Sustainability at goldensustainability@cityofgolden.net .

New City of Golden Waste and Recycling Program Notification System

Sign up for Recycling and Trash RemindersThe City of Golden has a new way to keep you informed about holiday and weather delays in services of the City’s waste & recycling program. You can now sign up to receive email reminders about one day delays for holiday weeks and severe weather notifications that may affect your recycling and garbage collection. This new service is free and only requires an email address, but is only for City of Golden program customers.

Sign up for email reminders!

Council Approves Sustainability Goals

After an extensive community input process, City Council unanimously passed a resolution to formally revise Golden’s existing sustainability goals and set new targets related to energy, water and waste. The Community Sustainability Advisory Board (CSAB) worked diligently to renew the City’s commitment to sustainability by creating new sustainability goals.

“It’s a special time for our sustainability efforts in Golden,” said Mayor Marjorie Sloan. “Golden was an early adopter of sustainability goals, and it has been exciting to see how sophisticated we have become in terms of what can be accomplished and the time it will take to achieve of our goals.”

Golden intends to meet the following Sustainability Goals:

Energy

  • Renewables: To achieve 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2030 and 100% renewable for heating by 2050. To align Greenhouse Gas Emission reductions with the Paris Accord by 2050.
  • Efficiency: To reduce consumption of electricity by 15% by 2030 and reduce consumption of natural gas by 15% by 2030.
  • Transportation: To achieve 20% fossil fuel-free transportation sector by 2030 and 100% fossil fuel-free transportation sector by 2050.

Waste

  • To reduce total landfill contribution by 40% by 2030.
  • Recycle 80% of recyclables by 2030.
  • Compost 80% of compostables by 2030.
  • Reduce total trash by 20% by 2030.
  • Strive for zero waste in municipal operations by 2030.

Water

  • Responsible Use: To reduce per capita total water use in Golden by at least 15% by 2030.
  • Drought Planning: To develop a resiliency plan by 2020 to prepare for a time where Golden’s and Colorado’s climate may be substantially warmer and drier than it is today.
  • Resource Recovery: To develop and implement a plan by 2020 where Golden’s surplus water is used effectively not only to manage the cost of water and sewer services, but to enhance the environment in Golden and elsewhere in our watershed. Additionally, to recover resources from the City’s wastewater by 2030.

“It is a lot of hard work to set and revise goals. We often set goals and they are left unrevised until we achieve them or until time expires,” said Laura Weinberg, City Councilor Ward 4. “I think it is really exciting to look at what we have already accomplished and keep moving that goal line forward to set even more ambitious goals for the City.”

“As Council acknowledged, these goals aren’t just a pipe dream,” said Ken Jacobs, CSAB Chair. “We fully expect them to be realized. It will take the combined efforts of all segments of the Golden community, from the School of Mines to mom and pop retailers, from Jeffco government and schools to big businesses like CoorsTek. It will take all of us working together to succeed in becoming a truly sustainable community. Luckily, from all of the input we’ve received, it seems as if the community is more than up to the task.”

The next step is to evaluate community ideas and potential projects. CSAB will quantify the costs and benefits of various proposals and create a strategic plan. For more information about the City’s Sustainability Goals, visit the Sustainability Initiative page.

Golden Recycling Provider Responds to China’s Recycling Restrictions in a Big Way

For many years, recycling sorting facilities in the U.S. (also called “MeRFs”, or Material Recovery Facilities) have shipped certain plastics to China where any contamination (trash, non-plastics) that may have been missed in the U.S. sorting process must be discarded. Last year, China became stricter with how much contamination would be allowed in the shipments. Business-savvy MeRFs invest in innovative technologies to ensure a lower level of contamination and therefore a higher market price for the materials. Other MeRFs who cannot effectively prevent contamination are forced to sell to processors inside the U.S. This surplus of plastics within the U.S. has a temporary, but negative affect on commodities prices.

Because China is the largest importer of recyclable materials, Golden’s recycling provider, Alpine Waste & Recycling, has made aggressive changes to their operations. During a recent tour Alpine Waste & Recycling’s MeRF in Denver, Vice President Brent Hildebrand explained the steps Alpine has taken to respond to China’s new rules. “The restrictions are very tough to meet. We have slowed the processing system down and brought in extra workers to more thoroughly vet the materials going through to look for contaminants.”

Alpine’s continued investment in innovative technologies has also helped. A new robot, nicknamed Clark, uses artificial intelligence to pick up and sort recyclables at a rate much faster than humans. Workers help it recognize new materials so it is continually learning and it even shares its new information with other MeRFs around the country. Elsewhere, an optical sorting machine “sees” different types of materials on the assembly line and uses puffs of air to shoot the materials to an appropriate bin.

The new technologies not only increase efficiency, and reduce contamination, but have also helped Alpine process materials not previously accepted, like block Styrofoam and Starbucks coffee cups (Yes, if your household participates in the City’s waste and recycling collection program or uses Alpine Waste as its hauler, you can now recycle single use coffee cups!).

One way you help keep the stream clean? “Metal objects, such as car parts, oven pans, and tools can cause the sorting system to be down for hours due to damaged equipment,” Hildebrand said. “It’s a really big deal and we need to educate people on what’s acceptable and what is not acceptable in the recycling stream.” Check out the complete list of Alpine’s accepted materials on the City website and spread the word. Together, we can keep the business of recycling in business.

America Recycles Day Resources

Let’s be honest, recycling can get confusing pretty quickly. Here are “recycling decoders” These templates (magnets , bookmarks, flyers) are designed to help make it easy to get stuff recycled right.

Nothing can be more daunting to would-be recyclers than trying to figure out what can be recycled, when, where and how. Fortunately, figuring out when, where and how to recycle in your community couldn’t be easier. Check the America Recycles Day recycling locator to get started.

A Firsthand Look at the Where Our Green Waste Goes

Compost facility

Recently, Golden residents were given the opportunity to tour Alpine Waste and Recycling’s Class II Compost Facility in Bennett, CO. As the hauler of the City of Golden’s compost, Alpine processes up to 250 tons of compost a month. This experience provided a firsthand glimpse into the path our food and yard our waste takes once it leaves our homes and businesses.

The process begins with Alpine’s compost route trucks collecting food and yard waste. After a transfer in Denver, the material arrives at the main hot commercial compost site in Bennett. The compost is then placed in mixing machines, which make sure there is a right combination of nitrogen (green materials) and carbon (brown materials) to create the compost. The compost is then placed in approximately a dozen, 400-foot -long “windrows” where it is turned and generates internal heat until it reaches a minimum of 131 degrees. The process takes about ten weeks.

After rigorous testing, the final product of enriched compost is sold to buyers in the landscaping and agricultural industries. King Soopers is one of Alpine’s largest suppliers of compostable material and buyers of finished compost. King Soopers brings their composting effort full circle by sending spoiled produce to Alpine’s compost facility and then purchasing back the finished product and selling it as potting soil in their stores. This summer, look for Kroger brand bagged compost with the “Colorado Proud” logo.

Start Composting

It’s the perfect time to sign up for Golden’s curbside Organic Compost Service. This bi-weekly, year-round service is directly billed to you for $9.45/month. Anyone can participate – sign up for yourself, split the costs with a neighbor, or ask your complex to sign up for a compost dumpster. Upon subscribing, you will receive a 96-gallon cart to start your collection. Contact Alpine at (303) 277-TRASH (8727) or email golden@alpinewaste.com. For a complete list of compostable items, visit Alpinewaste.com/organics-recycling.

COG Mesa

 Golden was named after Thomas L. Golden,
a gold prospector who arrived in Jefferson County in 1858.

Additional Resources

City of Golden, Colorado
COG Mesa