Peak & Prairie
April / May 1999
Colorado's Premiere Recycler Throttles Back
By Larry Box, IPG Longmont Committee
A King Soopers flyer announced that, effective February 15, the chain was saying "No" to glass, plastics and steel cans at all stores and "No" to corrugated cardboard at some locations.
As reasons for the change in policy, King Soopers reported that "markets for recycled plastic and glass are virtually non existent" and that "extensive preparation of steel cans" is required but not being done by the consumer. No reason was given for not accepting corrugated at some locations.
Dave Gabbert, manager of South Longmonts store said it was likely a "bottom line" issue. But King Soopers President John Burgon told the Sierra Club that the "issue of long-term stable markets, not finances, dictated the decision."
Burgon also said that he wanted to work with the Sierra Club, recyclers and government to find alternative ways to recycle. "We would be willing to take the loses as a community service for materials that flow through our stores, although it is becoming more and more difficult with current materials prices," he said.
According to David Savage, vice president of retail, King Soopers 77 stores have provided a great recycling service to Front Range communities. "We collect 109 million pounds of material per year," he said. "King Soopers was the largest recycling collection point in the state," agreed Longmont Eco Cycle program manager Kat Bennett.
The King Soopers recycling crisis began with plastics. Colorado Plastics Recycling, who sorted Kings Soopers and Eco Cycles plastics, announced it was closing. Owner Paul Sullivan said that he "...could not meet expenses with cur-rent prices."
According to Bennett, Eco Cycle has found a market for unsorted plastics but it is still uncertain. "Eco Cycle has crossed-fingers, hoping for no disruption until the Boulder County Materials Recovery Facility comes on line to support sorting." Without a viable sort-vendor, King Soopers had little choice but to close down plastics recycling.
The situation for glass, steel cans and corrugated cardboard might be more encouraging. Coors has been the recipient of King Soopers glass and would take more if funding for transportation expenses could be found.
"Coors could take three times the volume of glass we are receiving," said buyer Nancy Hawkins. So, the "non-existence" of the market seems to be the transportation expense for the last leg of the glass sorted by Waste Management. Neither Coors, Kings Soopers nor Waste Management feels they have the budget to address the transportation costs. Though a stand-off, it seems like it should be solvable.
Contrary to information on King Soopers flyer, recycling steel cans does not require "extensive preparation." Bennett described the requirement as "rinsing, putting the lid in the can, and closing the open end by squeezing firmly or stepping on it . . . so that lids stay inside and comingled materials do not become entangled."
Eco Cycle processes thousands of pounds weekly without a problem. Perhaps King Soopers has an education issue or Waste Management requires unnecessary processing. This issue also seems solvable.
Corrugated cardboard is a local issue. Savage said, "We are taking corrugated at all locations except Bergen Park. The issues there are storage and litter." Again, solvable.
What next? King Soopers is joining the Sierra Club in an effort to establish a meeting between recycling interests, government and business. The intent is to expand the search for alternatives on ways citizens, government and business can work together to recycle. Possible legislative action to ensure a recyclable materials market will be a topic. Manufacturer responsibilities, lower consumption and reuse will also be included as other options in the discussions.
In the interim, Sierra Club members are urged to:
1. Consider recycling support as a factor in where they shop.
2. Provide aluminum cans free to help defray recycling cost.
3. Contact President John Burgon and VP Dave Savage, thanking them for past recycling efforts, and urging them to resolve the issues so that collection can be resumed, while continuing to work on longer-term issues.
Contact Address: King Soopers, Post
Office Box 5567, Denver CO, 80217-5567.
If you want to be more active in Sierra Club recycling activities, contact Jan Oen, Lifestyle Education Committee, email@example.com, 303-320-4895; Kirk Cunningham, Conservation Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-939-8519; or Larry Box, Longmont Committee, email@example.com, 303-684-0321.