Have you ever wondered where the recyclables you drop off at the Loveland Recycling Center end up?
Andrew Hansen knows it. As a front-line supervisor at the recycling center, Hansen is familiar with the process by which Loveland residents recycle more than 7,500 tons each year.
Loveland continues to lead the state in residential recycling, with a 58% recycling and composting rate in 2020, thanks to conscientious residents and the hard work of city employees like Hansen. . Hansen joined the city in 2014, after working for several years in other industries as a team leader, equipment operator, commercial driver and project manager.
“Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work in nearly every position within the city’s solid waste division and have learned about the recycling industry,” Hansen said. “This journey has prepared me well to enjoy my current role.”
Today we will learn a bit more about this role and about recycling in general.
What is the most difficult thing in your job?
Approximately 150,000 vehicles pass through the Loveland Recycling Center each year. Each customer arrives with their own perspective, knowledge base and expectations for recycling. The biggest challenge my co-workers and I face is ensuring that everyone walks away feeling well-served, better informed, and fully confident in the city’s recycling program.
Where do Loveland’s recyclables go?
Unlike the contents of blue curbside recycling carts, which are taken to a sort and transfer facility adjacent to the Larimer County landfill, the majority of recyclables collected at the recycling center are destined for individual processors on along the Front Range. For example, most of our scrap metal is collected and processed by All Recycling in Denver. Recycled glass goes to Molson Coors in Golden. Organic materials such as branches, logs and grass are hauled and turned into compost by A1 Organics at Eaton’s. More than a dozen different vendors receive materials from the Loveland Recycling Center.
What do the numbers on the plastics mean?
The single number (1-7) found in the recycling symbol on the bottom of plastic containers is a resin code that manufacturers use to designate the type of plastic. Because each type has different chemical properties, they must be sorted before recycling. Some plastics, such as #1, #2 and #5, are suitable for recycling and remarketing. On the other hand, plastics #3, #4, #6 and #7 are more difficult to convert back into usable raw material and have fewer end markets to which they can be sold. Reusing is always a great alternative to recycling when it comes to the latter of these two groups.
We read that over 90% of plastics are not recycled. Why? What can people in the Loveland area do to help solve this problem?
While recycling approved materials is a laudable endeavor, there are certainly challenges. For starters, an estimated 25% of plastics are contaminated on or after entering the recycling stream. For example, food scraps or other substances, when left in containers, render the plastic unrecyclable. Another unfortunate issue is that people sometimes use recycling receptacles as an alternate way to dispose of other waste, such as motor oil, yard debris, and extra trash. Loveland residents, however, do a relatively good job of keeping recyclables clean, with contamination rates mid single digits.
A second obstacle to recycling is that consumers and businesses throw huge amounts of plastic directly into the trash. Many of these materials, such as hard-to-recycle plastics (3, 4, 6, 7), are not universally accepted in community recycling programs. Disbelief, inconvenience and confusion also prevent many people from even trying to sort and recycle plastics.
Finally, and perhaps most impactful, is the fact that we as consumers have developed an addiction to single-use plastics. These include plastic utensils, food wraps, plastic bags, bubble wrap, coffee cup lids, etc. As we just mentioned, much of this plastic will go straight to landfills or, even worse, to the ecosystem. While recycling frequently and correctly is crucial, the biggest game changer will be a trend towards more reusable and sustainable packaging.
Loveland residents can help by recycling regularly and recycling properly. Solid Waste guidelines are easily accessible through shippers, signs, online information and our helpful staff. In addition to effective recycling habits, we can all re-evaluate the products we buy and ask manufacturers to create innovative alternatives to single-use plastics.
What common item might readers be surprised to learn is made from recycled materials?
Some people might be surprised to learn that their new back patio is built with composite panels made from the same plastic grocery bags they dropped off at the recycling center last year.
Alright, one more: what strange items have appeared in Loveland’s recycling stream?
Many unexpected things have surprised our recycling collection drivers over the years, including mannequins, burning batteries, propane tanks, live ammo, dead animals, scared squirrels, and money. However, we rarely find all of these items in one basket.
Occupation: Team Supervisor – Loveland Solid Waste Division, overseeing the town’s recycling center and yard waste curbside collection team.
Years in the region: 38 years old in northern Colorado