June 2024 Resiliency Conversation: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for Resiliency

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Population growth, economic growth, and consumerism all contribute to the increased production of solid and hazardous waste. This in turn negatively affects human and environmental health due to air, water, and soil pollution, and co-occurring impacts of climate change. While the environmental implications of unsustainable waste production ultimately impact everyone, Indigenous and People of Color, people with lower-income, and other historically underrepresented groups have been shouldering disproportionate environmental and public health burdens as a result of unjust practices like exclusionary zoning and redlining, which have led to a higher percentage of industrial zones, waste facilities, and landfills next to their communities.

With over 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions coming from the extraction, transport, use, and disposal of materials (or consumption based emissions), Zero Waste principles such as Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle can help conserve limited resources, reduce carbon pollution, and protect habitats. Yet according to the Colorado nonprofit Eco-Cycle’s 2023 State of Recycling and Composting in Colorado report, our state’s waste diversion rate remains at 16%, or half the national average. The report highlights Colorado’s progress and the need to further develop the Reduce and Reuse aspects of waste and materials management, in addition to expanding recycling operations, to bolster the state’s circular economy.

More recent State and local efforts, in partnership with community nonprofits such as Eco-Cycle, to expand Zero Waste practices include activities such as banning single use plastics, incentivizing reuse and refill practices among businesses, addressing food waste, investing in composting infrastructure, and expanding access to recycling. The 2024 legislative session ended with an expansion of Right to Repair legislation (HB24-1121), which will make it easier to repair household electronics, the passing of the Waste Tire Management Enterprise  (SB24-123), which introduces a fee for new tire purchases to help fund tire recycling solutions, and the passing of the Environmental Sustainability Circular Economy bill (HB24-1449), that combines the Front Range Waste Diversion (FRWD) program and the Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity (RREO) program into one, efficient statewide program.

Producer Responsibility: In April 2024, the Colorado legislature’s Joint Budget Committee approved the CDPHE's recommendation of budget and scope developed by the Circular Action Alliance, the nonprofit Producer Responsibility Organization charged with research and implementation of the 2022 producer responsibility policy (HB22-1355) for packaging and printed materials. The policy aims to provide free recycling access to all Coloradans starting in 2026 by requiring large companies that sell packaging and paper products to fund recycling statewide. 

Did You Know?

Zero Waste management practices span across all six sectors in the Colorado Resiliency Framework by protecting natural resources, creating healthier communities, and developing a future ready workforce.  State and Federal programs and resources available to help your community reduce, reuse, and recycle and to address existing waste sites.

  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) administers two waste diversion grant programs, the Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity (RREO) program and the Front Range Waste Diversion (FRWD) program, which offer grants and technical assistance for end-market development, municipal waste diversion planning, and grant application guidance as well as resources to help communities, businesses, and other entities with waste diversion efforts. Check program pages for application cycle announcements and check out previous RREO grantees for project ideas.
  • CDPHE Closed Landfill Remediation Grant Program: During the 2023 legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly passed HB 23-1194, creating the Closed Landfill Remediation Grant Program. The Program will provide grants to eligible local governments to assist with the costs of environmental remediation efforts for and management of closed landfills owned by local governments. HB 23-1194 directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to begin administering the grant program on, or after July 1, 2024.
  • The CDPHE Environmental Justice Grant Program funds projects to help measure, prevent, or reduce pollution in disproportionately impacted communities. Funds also can help pay for technical assistance to help community organizations most effectively participate in rulemaking hearings or permitting proceedings. Use Colorado EnviroScreen to check if your community is eligible for the grants.
  • In 2023, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe received $50,000 to improve solid waste and hazardous materials management practices, including improvements to the Towaoc Transfer Station to manage municipal solid waste, reduce trash burning, and mitigate associated health risks.
  • The EPA’s Environmental and Climate Justice Community Change Grants program (Community Change Grants) supports environmental and climate justice activities to benefit disadvantaged communities through projects that reduce pollution, increase community climate resilience, and build community capacity to address environmental and climate justice challenges. The application for this grant is open through November 21, 2024. Explore the federal Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool.
  • CDPHE Market development grant program for tire-derived products: This program is open to Colorado-based for-profit companies, nonprofit organizations, state or local governments, and Institutions of Higher Education, and supports the development of sustainable waste tire markets in Colorado and will assist in the reduction of the storage and illegal dumping of waste tires. Projects should be innovative, demonstrating new approaches to the use of existing tire-derived products or materials, or developing new products using processed waste tires. The application cycle runs on a rolling basis through May 2025.
  • Municipal Measurement Program: This free program assessment and planning tool harmonizes the measurement of local material management programs and provides Colorado municipalities and counties with decision-making tools that can improve recycling program performance.

Dive Deeper

Success Story

Chaffee County received a $4 Million EPA (Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling Grant Program (SWIFR) grant to increase waste diversion and recycling efficiency in a rural community with diverse populations. The County will design and construct a regional transfer station for recyclables and a materials recovery facility on its landfill site outside of Salida, Colorado. The transfer station and facility will measurably increase local waste diversion and reduce process-related greenhouse gas emissions by providing drop-off options for recycling for county residents that report they cannot receive or afford commercial curbside recycling services. The project is anticipated to result in ~90,000 tons of material processed per year, with at least 50% of material diverted from the landfill. Read more about Chaffee County’s waste diversion plans.

CRO Pathways Webinar Recording: IIJA Environment and Built Environment Funding

This monthly webinar took place on June 12, 2024, and covered SWIFR grants, State and Federal environmental justice grants, a Brownfields program update and more. 
Watch the Recording

More on Current Conditions and Impacts of Solid and Hazardous Waste 

More on Environmental Justice 

More on Producer Responsibility