Whether getting rid of unwanted items has you looking for waste removal that’s kind to the planet or to support a social cause or just to get it out of the house, this week’s What’s Working expands an earlier Colorado Sun story about mindful social enterprises that are at your service.
These multi-mission-minded groups want to divert junk from landfills by recycling or reusing perfectly good items just in need of a little cleaning and fixing up. Some purposefully employ under-utilized workers, such as people with a developmental disability, criminal background or who have no home. And all operate in Colorado.
Many thanks to readers who submitted organizations in their communities. Feel free to suggest more by emailing email@example.com.
Spring Back Colorado — The Commerce City nonprofit accepts used mattresses for recycling for a fee of $30 each. That’s less than the $74 one would pay to dispose of it at the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site in Aurora, and those old mattresses will clog up the landfill for decades.
A team of Spring Back workers, some who are hired through a partnership with a neighborhood drug rehab center, tear apart 1,500 to 2,000 mattresses a week. Foam, wood, steel and other parts are sold to specialty recyclers. The organization also upcycles mattress parts in better shape by cleaning them and sewing on new covers. The mattresses are donated to local organizations.
Service area: Pickup is available by Spring Back in Denver and the Fort Collins metro areas. Partner cities include Arvada, Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Golden, Gunnison, Loveland, Northglenn, Pueblo and Thornton. And landfills in Pitkin, Mesa, Larimer and Summit counties have a Spring Back trailer on site so customers can choose to recycle a mattress or pay to dispose of it.
>> Contact: 720-515-1328, springbackco.org
The Good Couch — This Lakewood business will pick up old couches in good shape for free. But damaged couches and those in “more used” condition are subject to fees. Either way, the company does what it can to clean and fix up couches for resale, or break them down so legs, frame pieces and upholstery can be reused in other couches or upcycled goods — like handbags and wallets — so less heads to landfills.
Profits keep the business sustainable and a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless ($17,930 to date). Some repaired couches are also donated to people transitioning out of homelessness.
Service area: North and South Denver
>> Contact: Thegoodusedcouch.com, 303-246-2174, or stop by the facility at 8475 W. Colfax Ave. in Lakewood.
Furniture, clothing, etc.
Goodwill of Colorado will take most furniture items in resalable condition. The organization, which has nearly 50 stores all over the state, also recycles computers (through a partnership with Dell Reconnect). Proceeds from sales of donated goods help the organization fund community programs for folks with disabilities or economic challenges. Its AgrAbility program, for one, works with farmers and ranchers who have health, developmental and aging challenges. >> goodwillcolorado.org
Arc Thrift Stores also accept furniture donations and other items. The company says that it diverts 100 million pounds of goods from Colorado landfills each year. Revenues help fund Colorado Arc Advocacy Chapters that assist folks with intellectual or developmental disabilities with employment, housing, medical services and more. With more than 30 stores in the Front Range plus one in Grand Junction, Arc employed 1,750 workers last year, including 400 with disabilities, according to its economic impact study. >> arcthrift.com
LiftUp of Routt County accepts used furniture but, as with the other organizations, pieces must be in good condition. These are resold at its thrift store. Send a photo if you’re unsure and check in first to see if there’s room for larger items. Call 970-875-3433 or stop by the donation center at 2125 Curve Court in Steamboat Springs. >> liftuprc.org
Appliances, construction materials, electrical
Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore — This long-time nonprofit organization known for building affordable housing, will also take excess construction materials (insulation, roofing, tools, cabinets, landscaping), used but working appliances and lots more (here’s the list). Items with Freon require a $20 handling fee. Free pickup is also available for metro Denver stores. There are 22 stores in Colorado.
Bud’s Warehouse — Another catch-all nonprofit organization that accepts excess construction materials, appliances and home improvement items (here’s the list of acceptable items). Don’t forget to check in with them first to see if they’ll take it. Bud’s also has offered a job training program to support people rebuilding their lives from addiction, homelessness and prison. By donating resalable items, the company sells them at its store. Proceeds help sustain the business — and the job program.
>> Bud’s Warehouse, 13280 E. Mississippi Ave. in Aurora. Call 303.296.3990 or visit budswarehouse.org
Mile High Workshop — Instead of tossing no-longer-needed vinyl banners, Mile High Workshop will turn them into tote bags, duffle bags and pouches that are sold online. Profits help its main mission: giving people a second chance. “We hire people who are experiencing barriers to employment because of addiction, homelessness or justice involvement,” said Rochelle Hinskton, the organization’s operations and development director.
It teams up with companies that send extra work for its participants to “work in a real-world work environment,” she added. Dog-toy maker Kong hired Mile High to package dog toys. The organization also looks for companies willing to hire graduates from its job-training programs.
>> Contact: milehighworkshop.org/banner, 720-446-8612
Computers, TVs, electronics
Blue Star Recycling — With operations in Denver and Colorado Springs, this long-time E-Stewards-certified e-waste recycler has a double mission: to create jobs for the developmentally disabled. Keeping computers out of landfills means dismantling machines and that can be tedious and tasks repetitive. But workers with developmental disabilities often like that and thrive. So much so that founder Bill Morris is now working on a program to train other recyclers to make room for this under-utilized workforce.
Blue Star accepts computers, TVs, monitors, DVD and VCR players, stereos, cellphones, printers, fax machines, microwaves, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and fans.
>> Contact: Bluestarrecyclers.org has locations in Denver, 303-534-1667, and Colorado Springs, 719-597-6119
Also check out:
PCs for People — Also in the e-waste line of business but typically works with corporate clients. Pickup is available for those with a minimum of 15 usable computers. The company refurbishes used computers in order to provide them at a lower cost to low-income households. Interest service is also available through its programs. Based in Minnesota, PCs for People has operations in Denver. >> pcsforpeople.org
Baby and kids gear
WeeCycle — The small fortunes that parents spend to equip their babies, toddlers and growing children with the items the wee ones need — or seem like they need — have a limited lifespan for a single child. That’s when it’s time to tap WeeCycle in Aurora, which collects used baby gates, highchairs, cribs, strollers and diapers, well, new and unused diapers (here’s the list). Items are inspected, disinfected and cleaned (gear is checked against safety recalls) and then donated to organizations that work with families struggling with poverty, homelessness, under-employment and other challenges.
GreenSheen Paint — Founded in 2010 in Englewood, this local paint recycler now has facilities not just in Denver, but Phoenix; Kent, Washington; and New York. It recycles latex paint through a proprietary process that refines the paint and turns it back into a premium latex paint that is sold in 18 colors at vendors nationwide. The company said it has a landfill diversion rate of 85.8%. No charge, thanks to Colorado’s paint stewardship law that charges a fee at time of purchase. Some items, like aerosol paint and paint thinner, are not accepted. Here’s the list.
The company also works with the prison system on a work-release program and hires former prisoners. Roughly two-thirds of its warehouse workers are part of this program. About 35 people work at its Denver warehouse, said Emily Wilson, the company’s director of special projects and Circularity.
Drop-off centers: Ace Hardware, True Value stores and GreenSheen’s recycling center in Denver (1055 S Jason St.). Free pickup is available for 10 or more gallons in Arapahoe, Adams, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas or Jefferson counties (call 720-854-8722 or fill out this form). But check the company’s Facebook page or events page for one-day recycling events; two are planned for the Colorado Springs area in August.
>> Contact: 303-514-3955 or greensheenpaint.com
Also check out:
PaintCare, a nonprofit that works with companies like GreenSheen, and provides support in many states. >> More at paintcare.org/paintcare-states
Everything else that’s hard to recycle
SustainAbility — What do you do with bubble wrap, used contact lenses, old fire extinguishers and smoke alarms? Arvada-based SustainAbility will take it. The organization, which just opened a second facility in Broomfield, has an actual “hard to recycle” category. It accepts all of the aforementioned plus a slew of other Earth-unfriendly items. Here’s the list. Fees start at $3.
There’s also a reuse program that relies on local partners to provide new uses for your old stuff, from books (up to 10 moving boxes, please), candle wax (Conifer-based Spread the Light Candles to make into new candles), used eyeglasses (Denver Lions Club cleans and checks the prescription and distributes them to developing countries), vinyl records (Electric City Repair in Westminster) and old metal keys (local metal recycler Iron & Metal).
On top of all of this, SustainAbility hires folks with developmental disabilities, an under-employed workforce.
>> Contact: sustainability-recycling.com. For the Arvada drop-off site, at 6340 W. 56th Ave., call 303-425-9226. In Broomfield, the new site is at 11811 Upham St., #5A West and 303-524-9570. Or fill out the form for more information.
Civic Center Conservancy in Denver created a seasonal work program last year to help maintain Civic Center Park after pandemic budget cuts and labor shortages interrupted the city’s Parks & Recreation seasonal workforce.
Through its Civic Center Works, the Conservancy works with a local organization that gives part-time jobs like trash removal and landscaping to people who are unhoused.
This summer, the Conservancy expanded the program to include younger workers. Needing help at Civic Center Eats, where local food trucks set up shop a few lunch hours a week, the Conservancy teamed up with Youth on Record, a Denver nonprofit supporting low-income young people.
“We had always been spending tens of thousands of dollars on both musicians at Civic Center Eats as well as the labor to set up and take down tables, wipe down tables and take out the trash,” said Eric Lazzari, the Conservancy’s executive director.
“So we’re like, let’s apply some of these workforce development principles (and) sought out Youth on Record, who was doing workforce development for youth in the music space. Through that partnership, youth are booking the music, youth are the ones running the sound equipment and it’s youth talent in a lot of cases,” he said. “All of a sudden, these youth between ages 16 and 24 are getting exposure to live music production and events.”
The students are paid and are mentored by professionals in the music and catering business. While the program may lose some staff when high school starts in August, there are workers up to age 24 so Lazzari expects they’ll stick around to help out and gain experience.
“It’s not just about getting that summer job but also they’re looking at career pathways as well,” he said.
Other working bits
➔Denver airport’s economic impact: $36.4 billion. That’s according to a new report looking at 2021 data by a consultant hired by Denver International Airport. That’s up 8.7% from $33.5 billion in a 2020 report based on 2018 data. Directly the airport, its tenants and the businesses that rely on DIA employ about 131,000 people and create business revenue of $18.8 billion. And if growth continues, as part of the airport’s Vision 100 strategic plan, by 2023, DIA would support 447,386 jobs and have a total economic impact of $71.3 billion. >> More details
➔ Colorado provides $10 million in small business loans. That was in the first round of Colorado Loans to Increase Mainstreet Business Economic Recovery, or CLIMBER loans. Now, a second round of below-market rate loans is available. Housed inside the State Treasurer’s Office, the $250 million program works with local lenders to provide loans to small businesses in their communities. Colorado companies and nonprofits with at least one year of positive cash flow in the past five years and no more than 99 employees are eligible to apply for loans of up to $500,000. There are some restrictions. >> More at climber-colorado.com
Miss a column? Catch up:
- What’s Working: Denver still a top 10 city for tech, thanks to tech wages outpacing rent growth
- What’s Working: Job openings in Colorado decline as employers presumably find the staff they need
- What’s Working: Inflation in rural Colorado is likely higher than it is in the Denver area
- What’s Working: What happened since Colorado invested in Colorado Springs as a cybersecurity hub
- What’s Working: Connecting Colorado’s latest economic reports on inflation, housing and jobs
- What’s Working: Colorado’s summer jobs are disappearing
What’s Working is a Colorado Sun column about surviving in today’s economy. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with stories, tips or questions. Read the archive, ask a question at cosun.co/heyww and don’t miss the next one by signing up at coloradosun.com/getww.
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