Millions of dollars in opportunity waiting in Pueblo landfill

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PUEBLO – A recent Waste Characterization Study has identified millions of dollars of opportunity rotting away in Pueblo’s landfill.
The consulting firm that conducted the study, Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), estimates that increased recovery and recycling in Pueblo County has the potential of creating 109 jobs. These jobs won’t all be in Pueblo County. RRS also stated that a fully developed and mature recycling system in Pueblo County has the potential to recover an estimated $3,745,000 - $4,176,000 annually in recyclable commodities.
RRS presented the waste study report to the Pueblo Area Council of Governments (PACOG) on Thursday, January 25, 2018.  Two grant-funded waste audits were conducted in May and September 2017 at the Southside Landfill, along with a recycling survey, gap analysis, and economic and environmental impact study to assist PACOG in addressing systematic barriers to waste diversion. The waste audit will be followed by a second report, to be completed in the first quarter of 2018, analyzing the potential feasibility for a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) or other recycling options in the county.
“When Pueblo County waste composition data is compared to data from Colorado counties with strong recycling programs and infrastructure, the data show that Pueblo County residents and businesses are throwing away more valuable commodities than the other counties. For example, when compared to Larimer County, Pueblo County’s disposed waste
stream includes 190% more glass containers, 290% more fibers (including all paper
and cardboard), 300% more aluminum, and 430% more plastics #1-#2.” the waste audit report stated.
According to two surveys conducted by RRS, 90 percent of survey respondents reported that they would support more recycling options in Pueblo county. Likewise, 88 percent of respondents agreed that increasing recycling should be a priority for Pueblo County.
Unsurprisingly, Pueblo received below average grades and lags behind other Colorado communities and the nation in adopting recycling programs. Pueblo County received the following grades in RRS’ gap analysis:

  • D+    Collection - Below average due to lack of drop-off networks and universal curbside availability.
  • D-     Processing - Well below average because of limited processing capacity in-County, and distance to out-of-county facilities.
  • C+    End markets - Slightly above average due to local markets.
  • B-     Education and Outreach - Slightly above average due to Health Department
  • and private sector activities.
  • D+    Supportive policy - Slightly below average. While there is only one local policy (hauler licensing) it is a significant local policy to support future diversion.
  • D      Public private coordination - Below average. The County has done well to secure grants but there is little cooperation with private sector haulers or processors.

Pueblo County is looking at ways to solve this difficult problem by inviting those with resources to help become part of the solution. Pueblo County is exploring economic development strategies to create jobs, new revenue streams, and create a robust recycling industry in Pueblo.
“Valuable commodities with a high potential for recovery make up a large portion of our waste stream. There are millions of opportunities for people to capture stuff, recycle it and make money – and by millions I mean millions of dollars. On the other hand, the survey shows residents are more than interested in finding a way to get involved in the recycling effort. So, we have a fascinating opportunity here.” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said.
The executive summary, full report and appendix of the Waste Characterization Study are all available on the Pueblo Area Council of Government’s webpage
Those with resources, or those that are interested in learning more about these opportunities, can contact the Pueblo County Economic Development and Geographic Information Systems Department by calling 719-583-6244 or by emailing Chris Markuson, Pueblo County Economic Development and Geographic Information Systems Director at