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Fort Collins Moves Forward With Cardboard Recycling Program

Erin O'Toole

The city of Fort Collins is working to educate its residents about the city’s new cardboard recyclingprogram, just over a month after it went into effect.

Fort Collins has had voluntary cardboard recycling programs and education in place for more than 20 years. But Caroline Mitchell, an environmental planner with the city’s Waste Reduction and Recycling program, says it was time for stronger measures.

"In spite of the environmental ethic of the community, and those programs being in place for such a long time -- we’re currently only recycling less than a quarter of the cardboard generated in the community," Mitchell says.

Recycling cardboard helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as the product emits methane as it breaks down in a landfill, Mitchell adds. It's also a valuable material in recyclable commodities markets.

Credit Ewen Roberts / Creative Commons/Flickr
Creative Commons/Flickr
Cats seem to instinctively reuse cardboard boxes...

In February the City Council votedto make Fort Collins the first Colorado community to require cardboard to be reused or recycled, and the ordinance went into effect March 5, 2013.

On top of the environmental benefits, the program also benefits the local economy. Mitchell says Fort Collins could net half a million dollars a year – based on current market prices – and avoid more than $200,000 in annual landfill fees. Mitchell says the Fort Collins local economy could benefit roughly $500,000 a year from the sale of the cardboard - based on current market prices, and avoid more than $200,000 in annual landfill fees.  (Ed. note: a previous version of this post incorrectly implied the city would receive $500,000 in direct revenue)

The ordinance applies only to corrugated cardboard and not the single-layer paperboard that makes up a lot of consumer packaging. There’s no special collection bin needed, Mitchell says – the cardboard can be mixed in with other recyclables. It can also be dropped off at a recycling center.

Nine states also ban or restrict the disposal of corrugated cardboard.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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