News, Analysis and Opinion for the Informed Boulder Resident
Thursday March 30th 2023

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Lombardi: Boulder needs to get serious


The “Blue Line” website is an inspired idea, and I am honored to be asked to write a piece for it.  Standing in my backyard in North Boulder seeking my own inspiration at sunset, a movement through the tree branches caught my attention.  I’d never seen it before due to the leaves on the trees, but there in the far distance, sunlight catching it just right, was the giant white windmill spinning over by Rocky Flats.  So there I stood looking at the future, and wondering what is taking us so long to get to work when we know what most of the answers are to our global problems?  I knew then that I wanted to go right to the punch line and write about one piece of the puzzle that I know about, and what we need to do to get going.

Recycling in Boulder is nationally recognized, but if the truth be told we will need both of our hands to acknowledge our current situation : one hand to pat ourselves on the back, and the other to wag our fingers and say “tsk tsk” because we have so much further to go.  While Toronto and San Francisco have roared ahead to accomplish 70% recycling rates, Boulder is stuck in the 40’s, and until we build a couple more facilities and create a few new regulations, we’re going to stay stuck.

Here are a few things we need to do over the next five years:

  • Build a publically-owned, privately operated composting facility similar to what we did with the new County-owned recycling facility nine years ago;
  • Build a “C & D” facility to handle construction and demolition debris.
  • Issue public contracts to the private sector for the collection of all waste – both residential and commercial – so that we can create the proper financial incentives which reward recycling and penalize landfilling.  Today, the market is rewarding the dirty old system of dumping our resources into the ground, so, it’s time to create a new set of market rules;
  • Require the “source separation” of all discards in homes and businesses.  After 33 years of promoting voluntary recycling, and not even getting to a 50% recycling rate, it is time to simply say “It’s the law, sort your discards.”  The folks in California are way beyond us, and they are now debating a statewide law for ALL businesses to source separate.  If we can’t do this simple thing in Boulder – go from one mixed-waste trash can to three source-separated bins for recycling/composting/trash – then I fear that America is never going to evolve quickly enough to help solve the global warming crisis!

I am pro-business, and local economy and jobs.  Eco-Cycle now has 66 people on a $2.5 million payroll recycling over 55,000 tons per year, the most ever in our history!  Compare that to the 6 jobs that would be created if all the stuff we recycled were instead being landfilled, because the rule of thumb is one job for every 10,000 tons buried.    Boulder needs to get serious about creating a local Zero Waste Economy, and it will benefit us all by reducing greenhouse gases, creating local jobs, and protecting the air and groundwater.  And, rest assured, the local trash hauler will keep hauling, (hopefully with more competition) and the only folks that won’t be happy in the future will be the landfill owners.  Ah well … can’t please everyone!

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