A company that produces building materials out of used packaging received an unprecedented $1.5 million grant to roll out operations in Colorado, where it could help to close the gap between our state and the rest of the country when it comes to recycling.
"There’s a little bit of a problem with landfilling in Colorado because it’s so cheap, so people don’t feel that need [to find] an alternative to it," says Jan Rayman, CEO of The ReWall Company. "So we like to think that we’re showing people a way [to] think outside the box."
The company, which has honed its manufacturing process in Iowa for the last seven years, plans to open a facility in a yet-undetermined location, probably near Denver, by April of next year. While ReWall will only need 15 employees to start — most of the process of shredding, melting and producing building materials is automated — Rayman says ReWall will feed local economies by incentivizing waste companies to add the people and infrastructure needed to collect, sort and deliver packaging to be transformed into building materials.
The funding for ReWall's Colorado launch comes from the state's Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity Grant Program, created in 2008 to promote economic development through recycling. Funded by tipping fees from state landfills, the program has provided close to $20 million for recycling infrastructure to businesses, local governments, nonprofits, schools and universities since its start.
And ReWall is getting an unusually big share of the pie. As the program’s total yearly budget — including staff and operations — is around $3.5 million, most grants are in the ballpark of $200,000 to $225,000, says Eric Heyboer, RREO’s program administrator.
“It was definitely the biggest grant we’ve ever awarded to a single entity through our program here at the state,” Heyboer says. “But, we felt it was very much justified because [ReWall is] basically bringing an end-market solution to paper cartons.”
Normally, Heyboer says, materials such as milk jugs and orange juice containers are usually shipped out of state for processing if they’re even recycled at all. That's because these containers often consist of different materials, such as plastic caps, paper and aluminum, making them hard to recycle.
Colorado lags behind the rest of the nation when it comes to recycling. Though its residents are known for spending time outdoors, a 2017 report by Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group found that the state only recycles 12 percent of its waste. The national average is 34 percent.
"I’m a firm believer that construction is actually one of the very few, if not the only other industry that has the capacity to absorb the volumes that we’re producing as waste," Rayman says.