At GPHC, we are concerned about waste and its impact on our environment. In this directory, you’ll find tips for reducing your waste as well as resources for responsibly disposing of many household items.
Thank you to content contributor, Mark Kuhl. Look for Mark’s tips, “It’s Kuhl to Recycle,” monthly in the Greater Park Hill News.
The Problem With Plastic
Plastics are becoming a big problem, so let’s use less of it. In our purple bins we recycle steel, aluminum, glass, paper, and plastics. Most of these materials can be recycled into similar products.
Plastics, on the other hand, don’t maintain their original strength after the recycling process so they are “down-cycled” to carpet or clothing fibers for instance, and these are in turn down-cycled to plastic lumber. If plastics are not properly buried in landfill at the end of their useful lives, the material breaks down into micro particles, which contaminates our land, oceans and air.
Until manufacturers dramatically reduce the use of plastic packaging we can vote for less plastic with our purchases. At the grocery store pack your purchases in reusable bags made from cotton, hemp, or other natural fibers. This is a simple idea, but apparently a tough habit to form, as many shoppers have been slow to adopt the practice.
Gather produce in cotton mesh bags and try bulk versus pre-packaged dry goods. Go for fresh produce over processed foods for better health and to utilize nature’s packaging, the skin of the fruit or vegetable.
At the retail or big box store pay attention to the amount of plastic used to protect, display, and market products. Try to put environmental stewardship above brand loyalty. If your best option is the one with lots of plastic and you don’t mind going out of your way to influence the manufacturer, send them an email to express your interest in better packaging for the sake of our planet.
Do We Need All That Packaging?
It’s worth the extra effort to increase your recycling rate beyond what you toss in the purple bin and future generations will thank you for that, including your attention to the first 2 R’s: Reduce and Reuse.
Wouldn’t it be helpful if companies made their products more recyclable so we could therefore increase our recycling rate? This idea has been named EPR — Extended Producer Responsibility — and is gaining traction in state capitols across the country.
Today, producers have little responsibility for the reuse, recycling, or disposal of products they sell. The burden instead falls on consumers and our environment. Baby steps have been made with producers taking responsibility for paint, batteries and some electronics, but only in a handful of states. This will soon expand as legislators in a dozen states have been developing comprehensive EPR legislation with stakeholders. The expectation is to encourage companies to rethink product design and packaging to ultimately decrease what we send to the landfill.
According to the EPA the average American generates 5.9 pounds of trash per day of which only 1.5 pounds is recycled. Reusable/refillable/returnable containers are one possible solution to reducing our trash.
TerraCycle has partnered with several large food and consumer goods companies on a container return program they call Loop. Participating manufacturers design Loop product containers to survive up to 100 reuses. For now, Loop customers in the pilot region of the mid-Atlantic states shop on-line and receive their shipments via UPS in a special tote. This same tote is used to return empty Loop containers. A goal is to also sell Loop products at major retailers like King Soopers and Walgreens.
It’s good news that giant corporations like Unilever, Nestle and Procter and Gamble are pursuing ways to reduce single-use packaging so let’s hope the Loop experiment yields positive gains for the environment and can be scaled up so everyone has access to a convenient, efficient returnable containers program.
You can do your part by refilling and reusing your own containers, whenever and wherever possible.
You can recycle single-use household alkaline batteries (AA, AAA, 9-volt, etc.) through the annual Hazardous Waste collection that’s done through Denvergov.org.
Battery Giant, located at 251 East 6thAve., will also take them for 65 cents a pound. Battery Giant sends them to Battery Solutions in Arizona, where they’re ground up and separated into three end products; steel, zinc and manganese concentrate, as well as paper and plastic, which are used in other applications.
Several other Denver area recyclers will also accept single-use batteries – but at a much higher cost of $3 to $ 5 per pound.
A great alternative to single-use batteries is rechargeable batteries. They are available at local hardware stores or online, and they work much better than in the past. They save you a lot of money too as they can be recharged many times and when they finally die, electronics recyclers will take them for free.
Many charities take reusable clothing and household goods (ARC, GoodWill, Lupus Foundation, etc.). Another convenient way to donate your unwanted clothing is to bring it to a nearby drop bin. There are several in Park Hill with one across from Tables restaurant and another near Hiawatha Davis rec center. They take all textiles including blankets, pillows, backpacks and they also take shoes. Reusable clothing and textiles are preferred for resale but they don’t turn down torn or heavily used items which they send on to a recycler to be converted to rags, fiber for carpet, or insulation.
Much of what goes to Denver area landfills could be diverted and turned in to a valuable resource, compost! Here are a couple ways your household or office can compost:
Denver Composts is the one-stop-shop for all compostable waste. Sign up at denvergov.org for a green bin in which you can toss all food scraps, yard debris, tree branches, and more. The annual fee is $117 and the bin is emptied weekly and hauled to A-1 Organics in Eaton. A-1 grinds it up then bacteria go to work converting the organic matter into compost which is available to us for feeding our yards and gardens. Get your compost during the spring mulch giveaway and compost sale or buy bags of Denver’s Own EcoGroTM Compost from Ace hardware stores. Use it for your potted plants, sprinkle it on your lawn around aeration time, or work it in to your flower or vegetable garden. It sure beats synthetic fertilizers.
If you want to create and keep your own compost, sign up for free backyard composting classes offered by Denver Urban Gardens (www.dug.org). Classes are held at 13th and Colorado from April through October. They also provide a special class on vermicomposting (worm composting). This is a great way to convert your food scraps into a rich form of compost and it’s fun for kids. Maintaining a worm compost bin is easy to do and it doesn’t smell. If you can’t find a neighbor to donate a fist full of red wigglers then check out Denver Urban Gardens for advice on where to get some worms.
Electronics are not allowed to be disposed of in landfill and there are MANY organizations that will recycle them, usually for a fee. Unfortunately there’s no ‘one stop shop’ for all electronics but here are some options for us:
1-Go to Denvergov.org to obtain an E-cycle coupon for deep discounts on recycling many electronics. You must bring them to BlueStar Recyclers at 953 Decatur St.
2-Many electronic retail stores like Office Depot and Best Buy have electronics recycling programs. Staples appears to have the most affordable program (7 small items/day free).
3-Denver will take large appliances for free with help from their partner EcoProjex. Go to denvergov.org to sign up.
4-The Denver Household Hazardous Waste program also takes fluorescent light bulbs, one TV, a complete computer system, and car batteries.
5-Home Depot and Lowes take fluorescent bulbs and rechargeable batteries used for power tools.
6-Free electronics recycling events are randomly scheduled around town by various organizations and they usually take most electronics for free. Look for these programs in your local paper or on-line news outlet.
For businesses, you can donate excess food, perishable and non-perishable alike, to either Denver Food Rescue or We Don’t Waste. These organizations each work with local sites to redistribute food to those in need. Just give them a call or shoot them an email and they’ll help you make sure your leftover food does not go to waste!
For gardeners, if you grow more food than you and your family can use, consider donating fresh items to GPHC’s food pantry or farm stand, or you can sign up for Fresh Food Connect, a program that will pick up fresh food from your home and redistribute it to those in need!
For individuals and groups, you can donate fresh, frozen, or non-perishable items, including hygiene products, mostly full cleaning products, coffee, and copy paper, to GPHC’s food pantry, or you can also make donations at Metro Caring.
Is glass really recycled?
Yes, at least here in Denver. In 2016, Momentum Recycling opened a glass recycling plant in Broomfield. Glass we toss in our purple bins is sorted at GFL near Globeville, and hauled to Momentum, where it is processed into cullet. This cullet is then supplied to local glass container manufacturers, including Owens-Illinois in Windsor and the Rocky Mountain Bottle Company in Wheat Ridge. Over a ton of natural resources are conserved for every ton of glass recycled – including 1,300 pounds of sand, 410 pounds of soda ash, 380 pounds of limestone, and 160 pounds of feldspar.
You may hear conflicting reports about the destiny of glass bottles tossed in recycle bins across the country. But here in Denver you can thank Momentum Recycling for ensuring your used glass containers are turned back into new ones
Denver residents (residential homes 7 units or less) can register for one collection appointment per year for items including fluorescent tubes, gasoline, herbicides, and much more. There is a $15 fee and there are minimum requirements for a collection. To make an appointment and learn other details, please visit the City and County of Denver’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection site. The collection bag is large, so you might be able to share one collection with your neighbors, depending on how many materials you have.
There’s a new kind of laundry detergent and it’s not a liquid or powder. Tru Earth Eco Strips are ultra-concentrated and hypoallergenic laundry detergent that work in all types of washing machines. A year’s worth of eco-strips fit in a shoe-box sized container but you don’t have to commit to that many loads right away. You can first try it out by purchasing a sleeve of 32 strips online from the Canadian manufacturer at www.tru.earth/. This novel laundry detergent is eco-friendly because it uses very little packaging and no plastic, and the light weight of the product drastically reduces transportation emissions compared to conventional laundry detergent.
Mattresses are recyclable, so please don’t let yours end up in the landfill.
If your unwanted mattress is in good shape, donate it to Salvation Army or Goodwill. Otherwise a couple local organizations will recycle it for you.
Spring Back Colorado (springbackco.org) separates and recycles the individual components of mattresses and box springs, including steel, foam, ticking, cotton and wood. They also utilize a redemptive employment model, offering jobs to people who have recovered from drug addiction. You can drop off your mattress for $30 at 4975 Pontiac St. in Commerce City. Spring Back will also pick up your worn out old mattress for an additional $50.
A Bedder World (abedderworld.com) offers the same recycling service for around the same price, but they don’t allow drop-offs.
If you are looking to get rid of a small amount of latex paint you can safely drizzle it over some newspaper, let it dry and then toss it in the trash. For larger quantities of latex paint, oil based paints and stains, bring them to a Paint Care collection center (usually a paint retail store). Go to www.paintcare.org to search their drop off locator. The Paint Care program operates in ~10 states and is funded by new paint purchases. Next time you buy paint in Colorado you’ll notice a small additional charge on your receipt that covers the cost of this responsible disposal program.
China no longer takes as many of our recyclable plastics thus leaving us with a glut of materials that industry has not found a use for.
An easy way to help this situation is to give up on liquid soaps and move to bars. There are many producers of bar shampoos and conditioners for instance and the environmental benefits are impressive. Liquid soap is mostly water so you’re paying for water to be packaged in a nice fossil fuel based bottle with a label and cap. Additionally, it’s heavy so the transportation carbon footprint is quite large. Bar soaps on the other hand are packaged in a lightweight paper sleeve which is easily recycled or composted. The minor convenience of a sexy soap bottle with a creative flip top spout and shiny label does not seem worth the environmental detriment. Give bar soap a try, and save some money too.
Another alternative is to purchase refillable bottles of liquid soaps from this local Denver company www.thebetterworldcompany.com/
Even if you bring re-useable bags to the grocery store, you often unintentionally bring home many plastic bags and overwrap that is used to package your food. So, what to do with all these plastic bags and wrappings? plasticfilmrecyling
.org offers some good education. Most grocery stores accept back plastic bags and films including bags for bread, produce, newspapers, and bulk items, bubble wrap, overwrap used on toilet paper, cases of water bottles, and many other products. Generally, clear plastic bags and films that are not “crinkly” and are not easily torn (they stretch instead) are recyclable. These films are made from polyethylene (recycle symbols #2 and #4). Unfortunately not all packagers stamp their bags with a recycle triangle but they are improving. A new stamp you’ll find on Amazon Prime plastic envelopes and other films is the HowToRecycle.info symbol, suggesting the bag or wrap may be dropped off at the grocery store.
Styrofoam (EPS – expanded polystyrene), that ubiquitous packaging material, is very recyclable and we now have many options to avoid putting this fossil fuel based material in the landfill.
Styrofoam is not allowed in your purple recycling bins, so here’s an update on where you can — and can’t — take your blocks and peanuts.
Denver Waste Management no longer accepts Styrofoam at its Cherry Creek Recycling Drop-Off off of Quebec Street and Cherry Creek Drive. And, Alpine Recycling is closed. So we’re down to these two local recyclers:
1. Atlas Molded Products, at 5250 Sherman St. Drop-off hours are Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. to noon. Phone is 800-525-8697.
2. SustainAbility Hard to Recycle, at 6240 W. 54th Ave. Drop-off hours are Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Phone is 303-425-9226.
Atlas and SustainAbility take only block Styrofoam (no packaging peanuts or food containers) to be compressed into a solid block and recycled into new products.
UPS also now accepts Styrofoam at nearby stores — the closest to Park Hill is 6110 E. Colfax Ave. and at 700 Colorado Blvd. The stores accept packaging peanuts too. UPS re-uses block Styrofoam and packaging peanuts to package shipments.
Landfills are filling up fast with the increase in demand for restaurant takeout. We almost exclusively carry our food home in single-use containers.
Many of them are recyclable #5 Polypropylene, occasionally they’re compostable, and too often they’re Styrofoam. All of these options have their drawbacks and ultimately put pressure on environmental resources. That’s why returnable/reusable carryout containers seem like the best option. There are obvious logistical challenges with reusable containers, but restaurants on the West Coast are experimenting with the concept. At least one restaurant in Denver — Somebody People — is using tiffin tins for their carryout orders.
Next time you order from your favorite local establishment share your concerns and mention the concept of reusable options. Maybe our encouragement will nudge more restaurants to consider less wasteful takeout options.
Recycle your gas powered lawn tools this summer during the Regional Air Quality Council’s annual ‘Mow Down Pollution’ event. They provide new cordless mowers and other lawn tools at a deep discount and encourage you to bring in your old gas powered equipment for $50+ rebate. Their goal is to remove small gas engines from the Colorado landscape as they have a significant impact on air quality, not to mention carbon emissions. Get your new cordless lawn tools by registering at www.mowdownpollution.org/residential/ and you’ll be impressed with the power and convenience of these modern lawn tools. It’s a relief to not have to deal with gasoline, oil, flooded spark plugs, and they’re quiet too! Simply charge the battery, push a button and go.