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The recycling tub paradox

Old bins (middle) and new (right)

Old bins (middle) and new (right)

Recently, the city of Fort Collins adopted changes to ordinances that, among other things, require trash haulers to offer new, larger recycling bins. This as part of a larger plan to meet “diversion” goals that will send 50% of our city’s waste to recycling rather than the landfill.

Great idea. But what do we do with the old, smaller recycling tubs?

“I have 15,000 tubs out [in the community],” says Mark Glorioso, from Gallegos Sanitation. And while many customers are choosing to keep the old tubs for storage containers as they upgrade to the newer bins, plenty are sending the old ones back.  Glorioso estimates he currently has between 100 and 200 on hand.

The old tubs are, themselves, recyclable. But not really. “They’d have to be shredded or pelletized before a recycling facility would accept them,” Glorioso says.

So, that leaves potentially thousands of excess plastic recycling tubs as a byproduct of our new and better recycling policies.

But let’s talk about solutions.

Gallegos has at least one: The hauler is talking to Poudre Schools about donating the tubs for worm compost bins.  The repurposed tubs would house worms who would eat your food scraps. The resulting worm poop is as fine a gardening amendment as anything from a pricey nursery. I think it’s an excellent idea.

Although I will say that worms can’t take the Christmas and summer off. And that might mean that instead of babysitting Otis the Turtle during school vacations, families can expect to foster the 3rd Grade Worm Farm.

But that’s just me speculating. Glorioso says that if you’ve got a great re-use situation for a stack of has-been recycling tubs, contact Gallegos Sanitation at 484-5556.


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7 comments to The recycling tub paradox

  • danheretic

    I love the idea of the worm compost bins! We have kept worms and let them go easily 6-8 weeks without paying any attention to them and they survived just fine. So the summer break time wouldn’t be an issue. Maybe once checking in during the summer and just let them happily turn scraps into compost the rest of the time.

    I wonder if the bins could be used as some kind of building material? If people can build houses out of soda cans…

  • catfc

    Oh, so maybe I’m wrong. I thought they’d need a shot of water every week or so. And food. And an occasional thinning out. Well, anyway, I’m keeping that part in the story because I just like the idea of kids getting to foster the worm bins–even if it’s unnecessary.

  • i really doubt that the schools will be allowed to have worm bins. one of the teachers at dunn elementary has asked if she can teach the kids about composting (and if the cafeteria could start composting all that food that gets thrown out every day) and she was told that IF it was done, the compost pile would have to be waaaaaay on the other side of the play ground, making it much more of an ordeal to get the compost out to the bin.

    apparently the school district has concerns about mice. (at least, that’s our guess.)

    the school district also isn’t allowing schools to add gardens. dunn has one, but only because it’s grand-fathered in. teaching kids about how food grows and how it can be composted into valuable soil amendments isn’t really something the school district seems to be interested in getting involved in. (at least, that’s the experience of one dunn teacher as it was relayed to me. i’ve only experienced the general attitude toward the garden club project which has been positive from the school, but pretty darn unhelpful from the district which would weed-kill all our plants if they could.)

  • noë

    Why not also give them to household to use for worm composting? I agree with you, Cat, worms need moisture and food.

  • nisperos

    It seems to me that there are lots of potential good uses for them:

    A catch-all toy bin

    Fill with rocks for weight for those with light-weight trucks which tend to have the back end slide around in the snow.

    In the garage as a bin for sports equipment

    Dorm room storage

    Mold for giant snow blocks to build forts

    They would be so much more useful if they had lids. The offer for lids at this link is expired, but click on it anyway because it’s an idea that some might take a bin if they could purchase a lid for a nominal cost: http://www.gigoit.org/getitem.php?id=1273&q=.

    With a lid, for a starter, it might make good storage for holiday decorations or perhaps a place to stash all the paper which accumulates on the kitchen and counter-tops when company is coming…

  • Recycling is good, but we need to reduce and reuse first. The reason we need such massive recycling bins is because we are overconsuming and wasting far too much!


  • How times change. When I went to Dunn, there were two or three garbage cannisters set in fitted holes in the ground outside the cafeteria kitchen, right on the side of the playground where the lower grades came out of the door to play. You stepped on the handle and the lid opened.