Staff tour Boulder recycling center

About two dozen staff toured the Boulder County Recycling Center on December 4 to learn more about the life cycles of milk cartons, newspapers, soda cans, and other discarded items. The facility, located in east Boulder near Arapahoe and 63rd Street, is owned by the county but run by Eco-Cycle. Sustainable UCAR planned the visit and, in the spirit of conservation, arranged for the UCAR shuttles to provide rides.

 After watching an introductory video, participants headed up to the factory floor, where they watched people and machines hard at work sorting giant streams of recyclables. The facility installed new machines last year that can sort single-stream recycling based on weight, shape, and material, but there’s still a need for a watchful human eye and quick hands. Last month, Boulder launched a curbside composting program that is currently being implemented.

One of the interesting tidbits revealed during the tour is that all glass that leaves the facility finds a second life at Coors Brewing Company. Participants also learned a great deal about recycling etiquette: Rinse all milk cartons, don’t recycle shredded paper (it’s too small for the machines), throw bottle lids and caps into the trash rather than recycling them, and don’t place recyclables in the bin inside plastic bags. The fluorescent “stickie” notes ubiquitous in offices are not recyclable, nor are frozen food boxes, which have a petroleum-based plastic coating. Clean, dry plastic bags can be recycled at Eco-Cycle, which is a pleasant walk from Foothills and Center Green.