City Recycling: More drop-off recycling options, potential for pickup at all businesses and multi-family complexes

This article has been updated as of Aug. 31, 2016.

Changes are coming to Fort Collins’ recycling scheme this month and potentially into September as the result of two projects being undertaken by the City government.


New Recycling Drop-Off Location

A new site for recycling drop-off, which will accept a wider array of hard-to-recycle items than previously allowed, opened August 22 to replace the old location at the Rivendell School. According to Jonathon Nagel, City of Fort Collins waste reduction and recycling program assistant, the old location diverted 1,500 tons of recyclables per year and had an average of 400 users per day.

The Timberline Recycling Center was paid for by public funds from the City’s General Fund, wrote Caroline Mitchell, Fort Collins City Planner, in an email to the Collegian

According to Susie Gordon, City waste reduction and recycling program manager and the new center’s project manager, the Timberline facility cost the City $1.3 million to build.

The project was approved by City Council in response to public interest in more recycling options for items traditionally sent to the landfill.

“A 2011 study assessed the infrastructure needs for additional recycling in the community and the concept for the Timberline Recycling Center emerged as the top priority,” Mitchell wrote. “It provides an opportunity for a one-stop recycling (area) for community members.”

The new recycling area, which will be located at 1903 S. Timberline Road, will be identical to the old facility in that it is a free drop-off location for conventionally recyclable materials like corrugated cardboard, paperboard, newsprint, co-mingled containers and glass.

Moving the location allowed for the room necessary for an expansion of services to cover hard-to-recycle items, Nagel said. For $5 per visit, the Timberline location will provide recycling opportunities for non-traditionally recycled items like paint, used motor oil, batteries and electronics. A complete list of accepted items can be found on the Fort Collins governmental website.

Conventional recyclables may be deposited at Timberline every day of the week during daylight hours, year-round. The specialty recycling area will be staffed and open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during summer, and will close at 4:30 during winter.

A limited access to composting will also be available at Timberline, with dumping fees assessed by the yard. According to the City website, those depositing waste like branches, yard trimmings and untreated lumber are limited to dumping two yards per visit and will be charged fees that reflect the higher processing costs associated with commercial compost operators.


Nagel recommended that those who wish to compost larger quantities of organic waste look elsewhere for a cheaper option.

“There are other businesses in town more equipped to take large quantities of yard waste … we’re not trying to compete with their businesses,” Nagel said.

People are already starting to use the facility to drop off hard-to-recycle items, though it has been open just about a week. Nagel said that they have nearly collected at least one of each of the special items that the facility can accept.

Fort Collins’ Road to Zero Waste Plan, a waste reduction plan laid out in December 2013, was adopted by City Council and lays out the plan to make the city waste-free by the year 2030. Nagel said that this new facility falls in line with the goals laid out in the plan.

According to this plan, which can be found online, Fort Collins currently diverts about 68 percent of its waste stream. And, according to the City’s 2015-16 Strategic Plan, the Larimer County Landfill currently has about 15 years of usability remaining, and it is estimated that a replacement will cost at least $80 million.

Community Recycling Ordinance Updates

After an initial discussion of changes to the Community Recycling Ordinance at a Council work session June 28, City Council members requested that the topic be revisited at the regular Council meeting Sept. 6.

City-wide, currently 94 percent of single-family homes and 70 percent of multi-family homes in Fort Collins have access to recycling, according to Nagel. Additionally, 49 percent of businesses and only 19 percent of industrial areas have access.

“The Community Recycling Ordinance, if adopted by City Council as drafted, will require recycling service be provided to all businesses and multi-family complexes by 2020,” Mitchell wrote. “The participation numbers for the industrial sector are a bit more complex, but some of those locations will also receive recycling through the Community Recycling Ordinance.”

Trash hauling and recycling are managed by the private sector in Fort Collins, though the City determines how the collection of these wastes takes place.

If the update to the ordinance is passed, it will also allow private trash haulers the option to charge a surcharge on residential trash and recycling bills, equal to up to 25 percent of the cost of the smallest trash cart, effective immediately upon passage. The smallest available trash cart is 32 gallons.

Additionally, the update would require private trash haulers to provide optional, seasonal yard trimmings service to single-family homes for an additional charge by April 2017. The recycling and trash service provided to all multi-family complexes and businesses by 2020 would also be assessed a separate charge.

An analysis conducted by members of Fort Collins environmental services states that requiring recycling be at least 30 percent of overall service for multi-family complexes and businesses would potentially be a 33 percent to 50 percent cost increase per consumer for those not already recycling, however, such a change would also potentially result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 12,740 tons per year.

The big difference between the update and the current situation, in which 30 percent of multi-family homes and 51 percent of businesses do not recycle, will be that paying for recycling in addition to trash will be required, Nagel said.

“If you live in Fort Collins and you have trash service, you are paying for recycling whether you use it or not,” Nagel said. “The thought is that most would (recycle), as they’re paying for it anyways.”

Additionally, Nagel said that the new ordinance mandates that an adequate volume of recyclables – one third of the overall collection service – be collected from businesses and multi-family complexes, so that service volume at those places is sufficient for their needs, and not merely existent.

“For example, if a business had 4 cubic yards of trash service per week, they would also need to have at least 2 cubic yards of recycling service (2 is 1/3 of the total 6 cubic yards of service provided),” Mitchell wrote.

Service volume is measured in bin size and service frequency.

Lastly, the update would require grocery stores to have compost collection by 2017.

In the version of the update originally proposed at a work session Oct. 13, 2015, the ordinance would have required that food scraps be collected from all Fort Collins restaurants for composting by 2018. This portion was, however, removed from the package as of July 2016.

The ordinance update, as drafted, was worked on by many stakeholder parties, including the private trash haulers, businesses and citizens, Nagel said. Some deadlines in place in the initial draft, including an initial deadline of 2017 for recycling collection at all businesses and multi-family complexes, were pushed back to accommodate the privately-owned haulers.

“The implementation timelines were adjusted to give the haulers time to invest in the capital needed, as well as time to plan and implement the changes,” Mitchell wrote.

Nagel said that though the changes cost the haulers to upgrade their routes, they also give them more opportunities for business growth. He added that waste reduction is something that Fort Collins has been thinking about and planning around for many years.

“Is this (plan) the end-all-be-all?” Nagel said. “No, but this will be a very important step in our road to zero waste.”