Think of discarded materials as new resources to help achieve zero waste

Think of discarded materials as new resources to help achieve zero waste

Thanks to the waste-reduction and recycling plans put forth by our city government back in 1999, the Fort Collins community recently reached a significant goal of recycling or composting 50 percent of our waste from homes and businesses.

The next phase of the plan is to look at the many other benefits to our community that could come from pursuing higher waste diversion goals, known as zero waste. Rather than considering discarded materials as problems to our Fort Collins community, zero waste recognizes these as resources that need to be better managed to reinvest in the local economy.

The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as “a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing zero waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”

In March of this year, Fort Collins became the first community in Colorado requiring corrugated cardboard to be recycled or reused, diverting an anticipated 12,000 tons of bulky cardboard from cluttering our landfill. While cardboard is the only material required to be recycled, many other items are recyclable such as paperboard, bottles, cans, plastics and paper. Simply put your flattened cardboard with other recyclables in your recycling bin or dumpster. For residents, recycling is typically included at no charge when you purchase curbside trash services.

Reducing the production of cardboard is a great option, especially when you have the choice to do so. Moving requires packing our belongings into boxes and transporting them to their new location. There is no need to purchase brand new, unused boxes for this purpose in Fort Collins. If you want to share your used moving boxes or find free boxes, you can learn more about the cardboard exchange at under the reusing cardboard link.

In addition to the cardboard exchange, Rocky Mountain Box Co. is a new local company offering a convenient low environmental impact alternative to traditional cardboard moving boxes. Their boxes are made from 100 percent recyclable plastic; they’re crush proof and easily stackable with attached lids. There is no need for packing tape, having to build or breakdown cardboard boxes, or having to figure out what to do with them when you finish unpacking. All of their reusable boxes are cleaned with a “green” cleaner before and after every use ensuring your family’s health and safety is protected. Learn more about this sustainable solution at

City staff is available to help businesses address challenges they may face in complying with the cardboard disposal ban. Through the city of Fort Collins’ Waste Reduction and Recycling Assistance Program, or WRAP, businesses can receive free on-site recycling assessments, rebates, and free tools to help begin a recycling program. For information about WRAP and starting a recycling program at your apartment complex or business, visit

Kellie Falbo is executive director of the Sustainable Living Association. Call (970) 224-3247 or send email to kellie@sustainableliving

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