Sierra Magazine

One Small Step

For This Recycler, Garbage Is Political

Lisa Morzel Boulder, Colorado
City councilor and trash compactor, age 49

"I’ve only paid about $3 a year the last 15 years for trash pickup. In 1988, I bought 35 large yellow garbage bags from a waste disposal company that would pick them up when necessary. I still have quite a few of those bags.

"Two things led me to recycling. When I was a small child, a man regularly came through our neighborhood. He was the ‘junk guy’ but he found treasures. I wanted to be like him when I grew up. The second was that I was trained as a geologist and, in 1977, one of my first assignments was to map all the landfills in the Denver area. I was floored by our wasteful habits and by how much space had been devoted to waste.

"When my husband and I finally got a house, which we built ourselves out of adobe, we began paying attention to our trash. We were a young family of five, and we didn’t have much money. I used cloth diapers, baked, gardened, and so on. Reducing trash isn’t hard: Just as you put your forks, knives, and plates in a certain place, I put my paper, my commingled containers, and my plastics in a certain place. I compost, reuse, buy in bulk, and just don’t buy.

"I’m on the Boulder County Recycling and Composting Authority. In 1994, we proposed and citizens passed a tax that enabled us to build a recycling facility. One of the organizations there is called Eco-Cycle. If it weren’t for Eco-Cycle I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. In addition to taking regular recyclables, Eco-Cycle has just opened the Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials, which takes stuff like computers, VCRs, plastic bags, and hardback books.

"Recycling is possible anywhere, but you have to have a community that really looks at the true costs of trash and invests in reducing it."
—interview by Marilyn Berlin Snell 

TRASH TALK: Boulder County saves more than 500,000 trees each year by recycling paper. For recycling tips that can work anywhere, visit

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