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Overload: Recycling event collects more than it can handle

Overwhelming response forces city to close event seven days early


The overwhelming popularity of the City of Arvada’s recycling event, which partnered with SustainAbility, a local recycling company, caused the event to close down a week earlier than planned.

The recycling event started May 2 and in the six days it was open filled multiple warehouses and a regional recycling facility, according to Maria VanderKolk, communications manager for the City of Arvada. She said city crews also hauled 200 pallets of electronics that are being stored in one of Arvada’s maintenance facilities.

“We were completely overwhelmed, overrun — it was unprecedented,” VanderKolk said.

The city reports that the event saw 3,000 cars and collected 200,000 pounds of electronics; 40,000 gallons of paint; 600 mattresses; 300 refrigerators; and thousands of pounds of scrap metal, batteries, light bulbs, plastic, aluminum and appliances.

“Clearly, it’s something that is valued by the residents and needed by the residents,” said Arvada City Councilman John Marriott. “It’s a shame that the facility wasn’t able to handle the volume of stuff.” 

Even though it ended early, the event accomplished a lot, Marriot said: Hundreds of mattresses and refrigerators being recycled instead of going to landfills.

Moving forward, Marriott said, city council and staff will study what needs to be adjusted for future recycling events.

Some residents reported waiting in line for three hours to drop off their recyclables.

VanderKolk said the city considered various options to continue the event, including vouchers, but determined there would be no equitable or financially feasible way to do so.

The two-week recycling event was planned to replace the curbside cleanup program, which Arvada has offered every other spring for a number of years. The last curbside pick up program was in 2015. This year, VanderKolk said no contractor was willing to bid on the clean up.

“In the past, when the city did the curbside pickup program, it was also incredibly popular,” Marriott said. “It’s a shame it couldn’t continue, but there were no contractors willing to do it.”

One of the reasons city staff could not predict the volume of recyclables that came in is because the curbside cleanup did not pick up e-waste or paint, which accounted for the majority of items dropped off, VanderKolk said.

“I think the city’s sustainability staff should be congratulated for taking the initiative to try this out,” said Arvada resident John Kiljan. “This was something that hadn’t been done before, and it underscored an unmet need to get hard-to-recycle items out of our basements and garages and to send them to a place that can actually do something useful with that kind of waste.”


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