Jackie Hai / KUNC

If you didn’t know it was there, it would be easy to drive right past the Swetsville Zoo. Only the tippy tops of the castle towers and a wiry sculpture peek above Harmony Road from the sloped driveway next to a Costco. But things were a lot different when owner Bill Swets and his family first began farming here.

“In ‘42 when we came here … Harmony Road was just a dirt path,” Swets said as traffic roared above his head. “We had this farm — and a ranch — just below the south dam, and we’d run our cows back and forth with horses. Yeah, it sounds impossible but that’s the way it was.”

Aluminum cans
Kyra Buckley / KUNC

Is recycling still worth it? It's a bold question — especially after decades of public service announcements drilling into us the environmental value of recycling.

But China, who was the biggest global processor of materials, is no longer accepting shipments of plastics from the U.S. This has forced communities to find other ways to recycle these items, and that alternative can be costly.

Plastic garbage from Trader Joe's and an AARP card are peeking out of hillocks of plastic trash piling up in Indonesia.

It's a sign of a new global quandary: What should wealthy countries do with their plastic waste now that China no longer is buying it?

For years, America sold millions of tons of used yogurt cups, juice containers, shampoo bottles and other kinds of plastic trash to China to be recycled into new products.

And it wasn't just the U.S. Some 70 percent of the world's plastic waste went to China – about 7 million tons a year.

Jenise Jensen / Breckenridge Creative Arts

Update: 1:40 p.m., Thursday, 11/15/18: The sculpture “Isak Heartstone” has been dismantled. Officials with Breckenridge Creative Arts said the major components of the art work have been saved and are being stored in the hopes that it can be reinstalled or reimagined at another location.

nicdalic / Flickr

Between growing populations and changing climate conditions, our water sources are only expected to get more crunched. Communities in some very dry states have had to get creative about where to get their water, sometimes purifying sewage into drinking water. More western cities are beginning to get on board, too. But there’s a problem: the ick factor.

Courtesy of the City of Fort Collins.

When it opened in 1963, the Larimer County Landfill had plenty of room to hold most of the trash produced by the residents of Estes Park, Fort Collins and Loveland. Its annual input was 50,000 tons per year.

But last year, the landfill swallowed 350,000 tons of garbage.

By 2025, according to projections, it will balloon to 540,000 tons.

Photo courtesy of Eco-Cycle

Colorado lags behind the nation when it comes to recycling. According to a new report, the state’s recycling rate is 12 percent, far below the national average of 34 percent.

“It’s America Recycles Day, but unfortunately Colorado is downright trashy,” said Danny Katz, director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group. “We might think of ourselves as a green state, but on average, each Coloradan is putting seven pounds of trash a day in landfills.”

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Recycling options vary for North Colorado residents. Fort Collins and Windsor, for example, offer a combination of city and private options, depending on the recycled material. Greeley was forced to close its downtown recycling center in 2014 because of high operating costs and a lack of participation, but it may be coming back.


That’s what Brad Mueller and the city of Greeley hope to find out. The city has sent out postcards to about a quarter of households to gauge how much people would be willing to pay for better recycling.


Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

Larry Gerdes is having his barn taken down and disassembled in Malta Bend, Mo. It’s about the size of a three-car garage but stands much taller in a clearing surrounded by six-foot stalks of corn.

The barn’s exterior is graying, part of its roof is missing and there’s a gaping hole looking out from the hayloft. It’s about 100 years old and it’s not really useful.

“It’s deteriorated and it would cost a lot of money to repair it,” Gerdes says. “And it doesn’t fit into the modern farming. Unless you got two cows to let them loaf inside, nothing fits and it’s just obsolete.”

A lot of artists say they find inspiration in unlikely places. Architects Alejandro D'Acosta and Claudia Turrent, designers based in Ensenada, Mexico, most often find theirs digging through dumpsters and junkyards.

Their work, however, isn't remotely trashy. One of their latest creations, the Vena Cava winery in Baja's Guadalupe Valley, is sleek and totally modern. It's one of a growing number of wineries that's designed to give visitors a memorable visual experience — not just a taste of fine wine.