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The original item was published from 2/3/2020 1:18:00 PM to 1/1/2021 12:05:02 AM.

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Posted on: February 3, 2020

[ARCHIVED] City Cuts Contamination Rate In Recycling Program


Montrose, CO — A recent audit of the City of Montrose’s recycling program highlighted a significant reduction in the level of contamination in materials collected under the city’s curbside recycling program. This reduction saves money and improves the effectiveness of the overall program. 

Waste Management conducted the semi-annual audit on January 15 at its sorting facility in Denver where all recycling materials from Montrose are transported. 

Since 2017 the city’s contamination rate has averaged around 12 percent. The contamination rate is defined as the percentage of trash or non-recyclable materials within the city’s overall recycling collections. A contamination rate over 10 percent results in extra processing fees being applied to each ton of materials collected. 

In 2019 the city collected 720 tons of recyclable materials from city recycling customers. 

Public Works Manager Jim Scheid reported that the city cut its contamination rate to just 5 percent in the latest 2020 audit. This rate allows the city to save money by avoiding the extra fees.  

"It is great to see our contamination amount go down so much,” Scheid said. “This will result in a fee being removed that was applied due to excess contamination, and it also shows that our efforts in our community to help reduce contamination through education have been working.” 

Scheid said the facility in Denver sees a regional, statewide contamination average of nearly 22 percent. 

"We are much, much lower than is normally collected at that facility," Scheid said. "It’s very significant."

The materials used in the audit were collected during routine pick up around the city in January. Two, 1,000-pound bales of materials were transported to the sorting facility, and about 1,000 pounds of recycled materials were used in the audit. 

The Public Works department works each day to meet city customers’ trash and recycling needs by providing trash pickup once a week and recycling collection every two weeks. 

The audit report stated that residents who recycled paper, cardboard, plastic bottles and containers, aluminum beverage cans and steel food cans, can give those materials "a second life by recycling."

"This audit showed less than 10 percent contamination in the recycling program," Waste Management reported. "This positively reflects the efforts of the City of Montrose to tag frequent contaminators and remove recycling carts from residents who are unwilling to change their behavior." 

The audit report noted that some common contaminates found in Montrose materials were hangers, sneakers and textiles, film plastic and plastic wrap, materials stuck together, and bags of trash with recycled materials mixed in. The audit also noted that yard waste like lawn trimmings are not recyclable and are also considered contaminants. 

Other best practices include separating materials from each other before placing them inside a recycling container. For example, placing aluminum cans in a cardboard box is considered as contamination because the machines used in sorting the materials cannot process both aluminum and paper together. 

"If you put aluminum cans in paper bags, that is considered contaminated. Those need to be separated" Scheid noted. 

Scheid emphasized that the city cannot accept glass. Glass bottles and jars are also considered to be contaminants. 

The Public Works Department asks the public to help keep trash and recycling services on schedule by having all trash and recycling collection cans out for pickup by 6 a.m. on collection days. 

For more information about the city’s trash and recycling services, including collection schedules visit: Residents can find useful recycling information from Waste Management at

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