Colorado trash companies invest millions to speed up recycling. Now they just need more people to recycle. |

Colorado trash companies invest millions to speed up recycling. Now they just need more people to recycle.

Tamara Chuang
The Colorado Sun
Recycled plastic at the Summit County Landfill
Hugh Carey / |

Alpine Waste & Recycling shut down its Denver recycling facility for a month to retrofit the plant with new technology and equipment. When it reopened in the middle of March, the $2.5 million investment proved to be 33 percent faster at sorting paper from cardboard, aluminum cans from yogurt containers and juice cartons from plastic-lined coffee cups (yes, it can recycle Starbucks coffee cups).

The facility can now handle 31 percent more refuse than it could in January. The bundled, sorted bales of materials are cleaner, which makes them more attractive to buyers. So, recycle away folks.

Still, the investment may not pay off for a while. Global forces — i.e. China — forced the industry to find new revenue sources as the world’s largest country of recycled trashed turned away sellers last year in order to clean up its own environment. And in states like Colorado, where household recycling rates are between 12 and 20.5%, it can be cheaper to toss trash in a landfill than pay for recycling. The price Alpine can sell its sorted, cleaned bales of paper for has plummeted.

“It’s probably dropped on average between 30 to 40%,” said Brent Hildebrand, Alpine’s vice president of recycling. “The alternatives are becoming slimmer and slimmer.”

But — and of course there’s a but, otherwise why write this story — we’re amid a trend nationwide to recapture that market domestically. Companies are reopening old paper mills, expanding plastics processing and getting big brands to switch to 100% recycled containers. Startups and large manufacturers are looking at new ways to reuse recycled materials so there’s no need to send them out of the country. And trash collectors, like Alpine, if they can afford to, are making investments today that could lead to more economic stability.

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at

Support Local Journalism