Conference Report: Colorado Association for Recycling

Colorado Springs Mtn Recycle
Colorado Springs Mtn Recycle

It’s always a thrill to get invited to speak at a conference, and especially so when it’s in a place as beautiful as Colorado Springs. The Colorado Association for Recycling is a non-profit organization providing forums and resources regarding recycling and food scrap recovery for all of Colorado’s citizens, organizations, and businesses. Each year, they host a summit that brings together folks from Colorado and beyond to discuss the latest trends, technologies, and techniques for recovering paper, food scraps, metal, glass, plastic, and all the many other items we discard every day. Given that America’s recycling rate is only at about 35%, there is plenty of work to be done!

The conference focused on some of the most pressing topics of resource recovery: how to finance recovery of household hazardous materials, the latest innovations in sorting mixed materials, market forces influencing the recovery of plastics, and many others. One of my favorite moments was when, in a conversation over breakfast, a representative of a large multinational waste company mentioned that Obama’s carbon rules will help boost recycling. Becasue recycling uses significantly less energy than virgin production, incentives to reduce energy consumption will likely boost demand for post-consumer goods. Exciting times!

My presentation took place on a panel called “Sustainable from the Start – Innovation in Product and Package Design.” My fellow panelists included a representative from a company that makes cups and flatware with recycled and renewable content, and a biomimicry expert from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I spoke about Global Green USA’s work with our Coalition for Resource Recovery on informing packaging design and piloting systems that increase recycling and food scrap recovery. I gave overviews of our work helping farmers and fishmongers switch from landfill-bound packaging to recyclable alternatives, our partnerships with Starbucks and Pret A Manger to recover their foodservice packaging, and a peek into the future at our multi-family food scrap recovery pilots in Los Angeles, New York City, and the East Bay near San Francisco.

It was gratifying to get quite a few questions from audience members, as well as requests to follow up. It’s such a pleasure to get new folks excited about the work we are doing, and let our success stories and upcoming initiatives inspire others to increase their own impacts. We look forward to the day when all our valuable materials are kept out of landfills and in the manufacturing loop for high-quality products. Onward, upward, and back ‘round again!

For field updates and news from Lily Kelly, follow her on Twitter @LilyKellyGG