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February 24, 2017

Boulder County Issues RFP for the Operation of the Boulder County Recycling Center

Boulder County, Colo. - The Boulder County Administrative Services Department has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for
the continued operation of the Boulder County Recycling Center. The RFP is one part of an overall ongoing effort to achieve a more sustainable financial model for the county to manage its recycling center.

The county currently contracts with Eco-Cycle, a long term community partner with a strong history of collecting, processing, and managing the sale of recyclable materials. Eco-Cycle is also a pioneer in Boulder County (and the nation) for education and outreach on the strategies of Zero Waste.

When the original contract for the recycling center was assigned in 2000, it was framed in a “cost-plus” model, which was a common method of contracting for these types of services two decades ago. Under that model, the operator passes all costs on to the local government for review and approval. The operator then earns income on top of a reimbursement of expenses through a negotiated payment formula.

Over the years, this type of arrangement has led to a less manageable administrative process in which county staff are required review every single expense, from a 47-cent postage stamp to hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor charges, prior to approving payments to the operator.

“Our current contract leads to duplication of efforts, not only in reviewing expenses but also in other administrative work such as billing, maintenance, and other issues,” said Jana Petersen, Boulder County Administrative Services Director. “That duplication of effort is something we cannot afford at a time when the prices we receive for most of the materials we sell from the Recycling Center are relatively low.”

The RFP asks interested bidders to propose a fixed price per ton model to cover all expenses, thereby eliminating the duplication of efforts. The fixed price model is the most common and current form of contracting in public-private partnerships like this one.

The RFP also asks bidders to demonstrate how they will maintain close ties to the community and Boulder County’s Zero Waste Action Plan goals and help educate county residents and businesses to improve recycling rates. In addition, the RFP emphasizes the need for the operator to market materials effectively and propose strategies for increasing the amount of material diverted from landfills.

In response to questions about Boulder County’s partnership with Eco-Cycle as the long-term operator of the recycling center, Boulder County Commissioner Deb Gardner said the invitation to bid on a new contract structure to operate the recycling center should in no way be taken as criticism of its current operator.

“We’ve had a strong partnership with Eco-Cycle in operating the center and providing a wide variety of Zero Waste education and outreach services over the past 17 years,” she said. “We are making significant model and structure changes to the 17 year-old contract, which necessitates the need to issue an RFP and go through our procurement process. We fully expect Eco-cycle to be a competitive bidder in this process.”

The RFP was released on Thursday, Feb. 23 on the Rocky Mountain E-Purchasing System and also can be found on the Boulder County purchasing website.

Responses are due by 2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, and County Commissioners Deb Gardner and Cindy Domenico are expected to make a final decision on the award in July, with a contract start date of Oct. 1, 2017. (Note: County Commissioner Elise Jones has recused herself from any input or activity related to the RFP or the selection of a vendor to operate the facility.)

The county’s purchasing process does not include public hearings. Members of the public who are interested in this topic can send questions and comments by email to