Recycling rates

The percentage of Lafayette's trash diverted from landfills via the city's pay-as-you-throw curbside recycling collection:

2010: 26.5 percent

2011: 26.8 percent

2012: 26.4 percent

2013: 26.6 percent *

* Through June

LAFAYETTE -- Maggie Cuddy is no stranger to keeping things out of the landfill.

"I am a recycling queen," the 8 1/2-year Lafayette resident said Wednesday, as she was paid a visit at her home by a couple of green--shirted Eco-Cycle canvassers conducting a survey and passing out literature on how to properly recycle. "I grew up recycling."

But Cuddy's prowess around a recycling bin -- she recently chastised a family member for throwing away the center of a toilet paper roll -- may not be translating to the rest of the city.

Last month, a team of brave Eco-Cycle staffers donned Tyvek protective gear and manually waded through 1,500 pounds of Lafayette garbage hauled in by a Western Disposal truck. They found that nearly half of the materials examined during the trash audit could have been recycled or composted.

That included glass bottles, aluminum cans and paper of all types. It also included generous amounts of yard waste and food scraps, according to Randy Moorman, Eco-Cycle's community campaigns manager.

"I was surprised (by the audit results)," Moorman said Wednesday. "But I feel this is a great opportunity to work with Lafayette and increase the amount of trash that is being diverted away from landfills."

And that is exactly what Eco-Cycle and the city of Lafayette are doing this summer, as part of a campaign called "Lafayette Recycles." The effort is sending canvassers to 5,500 homes in Lafayette to ask residents how diligent they are about recycling and providing them with information about the city's single-stream recycling program.

David Fridland, canvass coordinator for Eco-Cycle, sat with Cuddy on the front porch of her Coal Creek Village home Wednesday afternoon and warned her about the items she should keep out of the recycling bin, including Styrofoam, plastic bags and lids from glass bottles and jars. He also asked her to sign a pledge that she will follow the city's recycling guidelines.

"It comes down to education," Fridland said. "It's hard for people to realize how important recycling is."

Changing habits

Doug Short, Lafayette's director of public works, said the city's waste diversion rate over the last three years has held steady, at just over 25 percent. In 2010, the city collected 4,596 tons of trash versus 1,654 tons of recyclables. Two years later, the numbers hadn't changed much -- the city collected 4,508 tons of trash and 1,614 tons of recyclables.

That relatively stable rate comes despite the single-hauler pay-as-you-throw waste collection program the city established in 2007, in which residents who generate less trash pay a lesser monthly bill than those who generate more garbage. Everyone in the city, with the exception of those living in neighborhoods controlled by homeowners associations, gets a 96-gallon recycling barrel for a nominal fee.

Short recognized that Lafayette needed to improve communication about the significance of recycling with its residents. He turned to Eco-Cycle, which had been running a similar public outreach campaign in Longmont for the last couple of years, to get the message out.

"I can put flyers in utility bills and notices in the citywide newsletter, but it doesn't necessarily change people's habits," Short said. "But face-to-face meetings and show-and-tell presentations can have immense payback."

He also said that the discovery last month of a large amount of compostable material in Lafayette's trash sample convinced him that he needs to approach the City Council next year to inquire about adding a third bin at the curb -- one dedicated to food and yard waste.

Behind-the-scenes

Moorman said the canvassing effort in Lafayette will continue into September, and, shortly thereafter, another truckload of Lafayette's garbage will be picked over with a fine-toothed comb. He hopes that the summer education program Eco-Cycle is running in the city will result in far less recoverable material ending up bound for the landfill.

"If people have a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes process of recycling, they are more likely to comply with the guidelines and understand the reasons behind them," he said.

Cuddy, 52, said she's convinced that people just don't think before they toss. She attends Front Range Community College in Westminster and sees young students who grew up in a culture of widespread recycling continuously throwing plastic water bottles and aluminum soda cans into garbage pails, despite the prevalence of recycling bins all over campus.

She's not shocked that a lack of awareness -- or lack of concern -- about recycling might also exist in Lafayette.

"I'm not surprised," Cuddy said. "I'm just very disappointed."

Contact Camera Staff Writer John Aguilar at 303-473-1389, twitter.com/abuvthefold or aguilarj@dailycamera.com.