Boulder County has long been searching for opportunities to stop pollution before it occurs.
“We were really interested in looking at the beginning of the supply chain rather than the end,” Boulder County Senior Sustainability Strategist Tim Broderick said.
With help from a $105,000 Environmental Protection Agency Source Reduction Assistance grant, the county can begin doing just that. Boulder County was one of 11 entities across the United States to receive EPA grant funding for “innovative, cost-effective, replicable source reduction approaches enabling grant recipients and others to save energy and water, reduce pollution and improve public health.”
The county intends to use the money to hire a consultant and to partner with food and beverage manufacturing companies in Boulder County to support source reduction efforts.
“It really helps us … step into the area of design and manufacturing, an area where we haven’t really had programs to accelerate the growth of … the circular economy products,” Broderick said. “For us, that’s an important piece of achieving any zero waste goal down the road.”
The EPA carries out the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, which requires it to establish a grant program that supports applicants making technical assistance available to businesses looking for information about source reduction opportunities.
“When the groundbreaking Pollution Prevention Act was signed 30 years ago, EPA was given a simple charge: work to prevent pollution before it happens,” EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Assistant Administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn stated in a news release.
When Broderick reached out to Kristy Lewis at Louisville-based Quinn Snacks before applying for the grant, she was quick to jump onboard. Lewis wrote a letter in support and hopes to work with the county moving forward.
Since she began Quinn Snacks 10 years ago, Lewis said she’s been pushing for the food industry and system to take a big stance on efforts that reduce pollution and waste across the supply chain.
“It really kind of eats me alive and keeps me up at night,” she said. “I just feel like we need to do something about it as an industry.”
At Quinn Snacks, Lewis began with microwave popcorn packaged in a compostable bag. Quinn Snacks removes chemicals and plastics and uses ingredients that can be traced back to the source.
“Anything that we can do is better,” she said. “Maybe it’s not all once, maybe it’s over time. But we have to really start those conversations now.”
Efforts such as those at Quinn Snacks and any that may happen in Boulder County as a result of the grant can have a big impact, according to the EPA.
“More sustainable food and beverage manufacturing, processing and packaging practices can result in reduced toxic air emissions or water discharges, water or energy usage, and hazardous materials generation and use,” Region 8 Media Officer Barbara Khan said.
In Region 8, which encompasses Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas, grant winners and the businesses they helped last fiscal year achieved reductions of approximately 96 million gallons of waste use, $7.5 million in business costs, 69,000 pounds of hazardous materials and 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.