To promote and encourage recycling and assist those wishing to recycle, CAFR provides information for business and industry (set up your own recycling program), governments (see case studies for decision makers), the media (resources for the press), 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 2015, 21% of the municipal waste stream was recycled or composted in Colorado; the rate for the rest of the nation was 34.6%. Less than half of the counties in Colorado have recycling available for residents at the curb. Some areas of the state have been very active and successful in recycling; however, these areas and industries have not been able to compensate for the rest of Colorado.

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). For example, in early 2011 the regional value for sorted and baled cardboard sold as a commodity had a value of $160-$170/ton, mixed plastic was $160-$180/ton, and aluminum was over $1,500/ton. 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. It is worth noting that economics for recycling are more challenging in Colorado compared to coastal states, with Front Range landfill rates around $11-15/ton and our distance to some 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. For example, the “break even” point for trucking aluminum (the point where the GHG emissions from transportation outweigh the potential GHG emissions avoided through recycling) is 116,000 miles, or the same as driving from New York City to Los Angeles 47 times. In 2009 Colorado alone conserved 640,000 tons of coal by using recycled steel and glass.

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 CAFR'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.

The Benefits of Recycling

Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. Collecting used bottles, cans, and newspapers and taking them to the curb or to a collection facility is just the first in a series of steps that generates a host of financial, environmental, and social returns—locally as well as globally. Find out more about the benefits of recycling.

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.