Colorado has made strides when it comes to diverting trash from landfills by reducing, reusing and recycling waste, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. According to CDPHE, in 2007 the state diverted only about 7 percent of the nearly 10 million tons of household and commercial trash generated that year. Seven years later, those numbers have improved as 11 percent of roughly 9 million tons of waste was diverted from landfills in 2014. Yet Colorado still lags well behind the national average of 35 percent for waste diversion.
The RREO grant program gives for-profit, nonprofit and local entities the infusion of funds they need to expand access to recycling and help Colorado surpass the national average. However, grantees must demonstrate more than a plan for better managing waste. Each must also show how it will help build local economies and create permanent jobs for Coloradans who are ready to get to work.
Western is building on more than $11.5 million in RREO grant funds that have gone to making a positive impact on the quality of life in towns, cities and regions across Colorado.
“The funds we receive through our RREO grant will help us do more to divert waste from landfill and advance Western’s commitment to zero waste,” said Nathan King, Western’s director of sustainability. “As an RREO grant recipient, Western will introduce a new and powerful composter known as ‘The Rocket.’ ”
The Rocket will divert up to 95 percent of food waste from the University Center—home to the Rare Air Café and Mad Jack’s Café—making it the flagship sustainable building on campus. This is up from 25 percent diversion with the current Earth Tub, which could struggle in Gunnison’s frigid winters.
“I hope the rest of campus will see what’s happening over here and be inspired to bring that to the other buildings on campus,” said King. “And I would love to eventually expand this into the community, taking some of their food waste and being a model for Gunnison Valley school system or any other larger organizations.”
The Rocket is scheduled to begin composting operations in late April, King said.
Eric Heyboer, RREO Grant Program administrator at CDPHE, said: “We are pleased to recognize Western for its dedication and commitment to reducing the amount of waste sent to Colorado landfills and creating new jobs in the local economy. Through our RREO grants, we incentivize partnerships that are a win-win for Colorado’s economy and the environment and this project exemplifies that mission.”
A recent study commissioned by CDPHE titled Economic Study of Recycling in Colorado revealed that the state’s recycling industry sustains more than 85,000 jobs and accounts for approximately 5 percent of Colorado’s overall economic output. This generates nearly $1.3 billion per year in state and local tax revenue.
C.J. Gooderham photo of Western students with Rocket A900 at Fort Lewis College.
About the RREO Grant Program
The Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity Act (HB 07-1288) created the RREO Grant Program with the intent to fund implementation projects that promote economic development through the productive management of recyclable materials that would otherwise be treated as discards. Projects that meet this goal are designed to implement recycling, composting, anaerobic digestion, source reduction and beneficial use/reuse for a wide variety of materials. Funds are awarded to businesses, local governments, nonprofit groups, and schools and universities throughout Colorado. The grant program is under the authority of Colorado’s Pollution Prevention Advisory Board.