Eco-Cycle Initiatives Are Branching Out in 2024

Here are just a few ways we are growing a canopy of environmental resilience!

You may know Eco-Cycle as the operator of the Boulder County Recycling Center, where we process more than 55,000 tons of some of the cleanest recyclable materials in the nation. Or maybe you’ve visited the Eco-Cycle Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials (CHaRM), the first facility of its kind to accept dozens of items that can’t be recycled in your curbside bin. Zero Waste services like these are the roots from which our community Zero Waste programs have grown, demonstrating that from localized beginnings can emerge a canopy of environmental resilience. Read on to see how our programs are blooming this spring!

Turning Over a New Leaf: Transitioning to an Electric Fleet

Later this spring, Eco-Cycle will welcome its second battery-electric vehicle! In 2023, Eco-Cycle introduced our community to the first-in-the-nation electric compost collection truck, collecting compostable organic discards from businesses and schools across Boulder County! Our newest EV fleet member will collect recycling from our commercial and school customers. Switching our fleet to electric vehicles helps us realize all the climate benefits of recycling and composting without generating transportation emissions. Our goal is to help lead the transition of commercial fleet electrification for all haulers, merging our mission of Zero Waste with Zero Emissions for a more climate-resilient future.

Deepening Our Roots: Community Compost System

We’re demonstrating that composting and carbon farming are critical nature-based climate solutions by taking the first steps toward developing a Circular Community Compost System in Boulder County. In this system, residents and businesses generate clean food scraps and yard trimmings that are received by local compost manufacturers (rather than being transported to an industrial facility located far away) to make high-quality compost. The compost is then applied to local farms, gardens, and lawns to build healthy, drought-resistant soils that absorb carbon from the atmosphere while growing more nutritious food!

To model this system, in 2022 we began building a network of on-farm compost production sites within Boulder County. Today, five farm partners have Aerated Static Pile (ASP) compost production systems that take materials generated on the farm (such as manure, animal bedding, plant trimmings, and food scraps) and produce a premium-grade compost that is applied to the farm’s lands.

Our next step is to deepen these roots of local composting by bringing clean, organic discards from the public to the farms for composting. In 2023, we successfully changed local regulations so that farms can now accept food scraps generated from the community and compost them on-farm. Next up, we’re developing a system for CSA members and farm-to-table restaurants to send their food scraps to local farms to be composted, closing the loop on our food system and creating an impactful climate solution!

Nurturing Environmental Stewards: Green Star Schools

There is no better way to change our society’s culture of wasteful habits than by educating and engaging children, motivating them and their families to protect the environment. Eco-Cycle launched our Schools program in 1987, and since then, hundreds of thousands of students have grown up with an exceptional degree of environmental literacy thanks to our first-in-the-nation, science-based programming. 

Sprouting from our original Schools program, we launched our Green Star Schools Program in 2005—the first program in the nation to address waste reduction and the collection of compostables and recyclables in every aspect of school life. We make Zero Waste an integral part of the daily school routine by increasing environmental literacy, providing infrastructure, and changing behavior. As a result, schools reduce their waste by up to 67%, and because we actively involve families in waste reduction, Green Star students and their families learn that they can significantly contribute to their own health, and the health of the natural world.

From our initial enrollment of four schools, today we serve 60 schools and over 35,000 students and staff. During the 2023–2024 school year, we’re making history by enrolling an all-time high of six schools into the Green Star Schools program! 

Branching Out: Statewide Policy

Eco-Cycle is dedicated to building Zero Waste communities across Colorado and beyond. Throughout our 48-year history, we’ve helped communities pass ordinances to reduce waste, decrease plastic use, improve access to recycling services, and promote composting. Emerging from these successes, Eco-Cycle branched out in 2019 to advocate for statewide policy to guide all Colorado communities toward a Zero Waste future. 

Each year since, we’ve successfully helped draft and advocate for the passage of Zero Waste legislation, including two historic policies: 1) Colorado’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Act (House Bill 21-1162), which, when fully implemented this year, will ban plastic checkout bags from distribution at large Colorado retailers, and ban polystyrene foam food and beverage containers from being distributed by all restaurants, and 2) a Producer Responsibility program that will create a fully producer-funded and operated statewide recycling system for all consumer-facing packaging and printed paper in 2026. The successful implementation of this law will provide recycling for ALL Coloradans and take our state from a Zero Waste laggard to a leader. 

Working from the foundation of these and other legislative successes, we’re championing more Zero Waste bills in 2024 than ever! In this current session, we’re working hard to write, advocate for, and pass Zero Waste bills to disincentivize proposed plastics-to-fuel facilities, ensure sustainable tire recycling, promote right-to-repair legislation, and more!

Learn more about these bills and other statewide legislative campaigns!