Quick N' Dirty

Recycling touted as next green wave
Recycling could be the next wave in Colorado’s “green economy.”

By diverting more waste from the landfills, particularly electronics, the state could not only reduce pollution and conserve resources, but create much-needed jobs, state labor and environmental groups say.

“We are currently looking at legislation that would institute a ban on the disposal of electronic devices in our landfills, which will increase our recycling rate here in Colorado,” said Marjorie Griek, executive director of the Colorado Association for Recycling. “This not only protects our environment from the harmful toxics contained in some electronic devices, but would also create more jobs in the recycling, reuse, repair and remanufacturing fields.”

Griek’s statements came on the heels of the release of a new study on the effects of recycling, “More Jobs, Less Pollution,” which was released in conjunction with last week’s National Recycling Day. The report was compiled by the Tellus Institute for the BlueGreen Alliance, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Natural Resources Defense Council, among others.

According to the report, diverting 75 percent of waste will create nearly 1.5 million jobs nationwide by 2030 while significantly reducing pollution, saving water and energy, and building the economy. Cutting waste by 75 percent would have staggering effects, reducing emissions by 276 million tons – the equivalent of 72 coal-fired power plants or 50 million cars, according to the report.

“We are thrilled to see the release of this important and comprehensive report,” said Griek.

The report also shows that while the vast majority of solid waste nationwide can be recycled, re-used or composted, only 33 percent is currently diverted from disposal. Likewise, only 30 percent of the 178 million tons of construction debris is recycled.

In Colorado, only about 16 percent of electronic waste, such as computers and televisions, are being recycled.  The rest end up in our landfills or back yards, where toxins can contaminate our air, water and land, said Randy Moorman, of the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

“It’s time Colorado stops throwing away jobs and polluting the environment,” Moorman said. “A ban on the disposal of electronic devices in landfills will not only help us clean up the environment, but also encourage more recycling and create jobs.”

Roger Singer, Sierra Club’s Senior Regional Representative based in Colorado said the findings are further proof well- paying jobs can be created through increased recycling and composting. “We can pay people living wages in an expanded recycling industry and simultaneously help clean up our air and water while decreasing the need for more landfills,” he said.

Leading labor groups are dedicated to pushing for an increase in recycling to create good-paying jobs.  “Recycling creates jobs—a national priority,” Steve Vairma, president of Teamsters Joint Council 3, said.  “As Colorado and its cities make decisions about how to manage waste, they should invest in good, safe jobs in recycling, composting and reuse.”

Colorado River study seeks input
Colorado residents are being asked to add their two cents to the ongoing debate of water usage in the West.

On Tues., Dec. 6, the Bureau of Reclamation will host a webinar to update the public and gather input on the ongoing Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study. Started in 2010, the study is exploring imbalances in water supply throughout the Colorado River Basin, which spans parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

The Colorado River is one of the most critical sources of water in the Western United States and Mexico. But based on inflows over the last century, it is widely known that the actual supply falls short of allocations under the Colorado River Compact. At the same time, demand is expected to only increase due to climate change, drought and development. It is expected that the basin will face water shortages in the not to distant future without more storage or conservation measures.

As such, in 2009 the seven states that make up the basin proposed the study, which seeks to identify imbalances as well as strategies for adapting and mitigating the shortages over the next 50 years. The study will also look at hydroelectric power as well as risks to recreation; fish and wildlife; water quality; flow; ecosystems; and flood control.

“We have a good understanding of the depth of challenges that the Colorado River Basin is facing in upcoming years,” Jennifer Gimbel, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said Tuesday. “This current study builds on Colorado’s planning by bringing in many different stakeholders and competing interests, and expanding on our efforts.”

As the study moves forward, an array of options will be considered, including potential legal and regulatory challenges, feasibility studies, environmental compliance activities and potential demonstration programs.

Gimbel hailed the study as a model of separate interests working together. “It’s great to see this opportunity for future involvement basinwide.”
The webinar starts at 11 a.m. and can be viewed on the Bur Rec’s website under the “quick links” tab at: http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/crbstudy.html. Public comments can be submitted using a standardized online form until Feb. 1, 2012. The study is expected to be complete by July 2012.

For more information on the Basin Study, go to the CWCB’s website: http://cwcb.state.co.

– Missy Votel