Denver’s Great Divide Brewing Company has always strived to be environmentally conscious; its smart green building and  storm water protection program are perfect examples. But now the 24-year-old brewery is undertaking its most ambitious effort yet: The start of a community recycling program in the RiNo district, funded by a $16,000 grant administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

In February, the brewery was awarded grant funding through the CDPHE’s competitive Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity (RREO) grant program. Great Divide’s lead sustainability coordinator and quality assurance manager, Erin Cox, decided to focus the funds toward diverting the brewery’s recyclable waste, which was, unfortunately, ending up in landfills.

“We estimate that we use 2,000 pounds of polypropylene grain bags a month, and all of this was going to the dump,” Cox says. “We realized if we were struggling with recycling these items, then surely our neighboring breweries were also having the same issue.” Grain and specialty malt bags made of recyclable polypropylene plastic are common in U.S. breweries. But recycling centers typically won’t accept polypropylene bags unless they’re baled and compacted—not an easy task for most small breweries. The folks are Great Divide are hoping to make the process easier.

Members of the Great Divide team pose with their newly acquired grant. Photo courtesy of Great Divide Brewing Company

During the grant application process, Cox and her “green team” of environmentally-conscious Great Divide employees reached out to fellow breweries in the RiNo area, asking them to pledge support and commit to utilizing the recycling program, should the grant funding be awarded.

Seven breweries signed on, giving Great Divide’s grant application a boost—and it worked. Funding secured, the brewery was able to purchase and install two balers and a pallet scale. The balers will allow the brewery to collect and compact the polypropylene grain bags to send off to recycling facilities, while the pallet scale will help track the success of the program. The awarded grant also enabled Great Divide to register as an official recycler in the state.

While Great Divide anticipates offering its recycling resources to small businesses throughout RiNo beginning in the fall, the pilot program is only open to Bierstadt Lagerhaus and Black Shirt Brewing Co. The three breweries will work to implement the most efficient and environmentally-friendly practices for the program moving forward.

“At the end of the day, this grant serves as a way to ensure that we’re impacting the environment as little as possible,” Cox says. “With these new resources, we are now able to not only bale our own waste streams, but we can handle our neighbors’ recyclable byproducts as well.”

In addition to the brewery’s innovative recycling program and green operations, Great Divide encourages employees to live as sustainability as possible by offering eco passes; eliminating disposable plates, cutlery, and coffee cups at all Great Divide locations; and providing educational opportunities for best sustainable practices at work and at home. We’ll raise a pint to that.

1812 35th St., 303-296-9460