By Dyana Z. Furmansky
The launch of the Love Zero Waste app in April 2020 is one of the little good-news stories that got trashed in the outbreak of the global pandemic, when practically the only news reported was bleak and related to COVID-19. “We didn’t get the coverage we expected,” remembers Alyssa Reindel. With her husband, David Reindel, she co-founded the company Evergreen ZeroWaste that created the app.
COVID and its variants will be on the planet for some time to come. So, it seems, will the waste diversion company’s free Love Zero Waste App, which is useful for residents of the Roaring Fork region who care about the health of our planet.
The Love Zero Waste App digitizes and expands Evergreen ZeroWaste’s printed recycling guide from 2016, says Reindel. She had wanted to turn the paper guide into a “live” app so that it could be updated with suggestions and, of course, not add to the accumulation of physical stuff in the world. It took time, however, for Reindel to persuade the Canadian company Recollect, which builds online community recycling platforms for individual municipalities. Reindel asked for a regional template for her “Love Zero” app.
“We wanted people to be able to look up a particular item they want to recycle and find out what facilities could take it between Aspen and Rifle.” After Evergreen ZeroWaste won the Recycle Colorado’s 2019 Recycler of the Year Award, “I guess we got Recollect’s attention,” she says. According to Reindel, there are about 5,000 Love Zero users and 8,000 materials that have found new purposes. After the launch of the first regional app, Evergreen ZeroWaste built one for Mesa County as well.
Reindel wanted the app to help people decide whether their stuff was recyclable, compostable, reusable or, as a last resort, headed for the landfill. To build both a comprehensive list of items that could be diverted from landfills and the alternate sites that would accept them, “was definitely very labor intensive,” Reindel admits. Three Evergreen ZeroWaste staff members contributed many hours, while employee Tessarae Mercer worked on the project full-time for four months.
Mercer says she made “hundreds of phone calls,” and came up with more than 300 items and dozens of reuse-focused organizations where stuff could be dropped off along the 68-mile corridor crossing Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties. The work connected types of materials to separate “waste streams.” Car and truck tires, for example, required their own stream, says Mercer. “Bicycle inner tubes and tires” also get a unique stream.
The Love Zero Waste App, which is bilingual, allows users to search for an item they want to recycle, and include suggestions for additional items and recycling sites if they don’t find what they are looking for. It also lists the most popular searches, which currently are televisions, food waste, batteries and leaves. There’s a tab to see what goes where, and a calendar of waste diversion events in each community.
“I was really surprised to find out how many items can be kept out of landfills,” says Mercer. “A huge percentage do have another place to go.” One item that surprised her? An old wetsuit that she assumed was headed for the landfill could be sent to a textile recycling center instead. And old cell phones can get dropped into a recycle box at the Aspen City Hall, she says.
“I learned a lot from Evergreen ZeroWaste’s holistic approach to waste diversion, and my zero-waste skill set really grew,” Mercer says. In part, it was her success in fulfilling Evergreen ZeroWaste’s desire for a regional approach to waste diversion that landed her a new job as the national sustainability coordinator for Chipotle, based in Newport Beach, California. Mercer moved to Los Angeles for the position last May.
“I’m so proud of Tessarae,” says Reindel. “She is chasing her own adventure.”