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RREO - Hub-and-Spoke Recycling Model

What is Hub-and-Spoke?


In its simplest form, the Hub-and-Spoke recycling model consists of a centralized processing center for recyclables, or “hub”, where material is sorted, baled, and/or sold to market. The “spokes” are the surrounding communities that feed the recyclables they collect to the main hub. Typically the hub and spoke communities have a formal agreement that ensures the recyclables collected in the region flow from the spokes to the hub for processing. 


What are the benefits of Hub-and-Spoke?

Hub-and-Spoke creates economies of scale that avoid communities investing in duplicative recycling infrastructure. Costs for equipment, personnel, processing, transportation, and marketing are shared. Additionally, the long-haul transport of recyclables to market from remote areas is minimized. 


Equally important is the development of a regional partnership to sustain the Hub-and-Spoke system. Many small communities struggle to generate enough recyclables to attract investment from large recyclers. These same small communities cannot financially support a full-scale recycling program on their own. Consolidating recyclables from multiple communities via a Hub-and-Spoke partnership increases the volume of recyclables collected, hence revenue potential.  


Hub-and-Spoke and the Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity (RREO) Grant Program


The RREO Grant Program recognizes the benefits of the Hub-and-Spoke concept, especially for rural Colorado, and has made it a top priority to fund projects that employ this model. The lack of recycling processing capacity (hubs) and collection sites (spokes) in rural areas has created a disparity in the availability of recycling opportunities. The RREO Grant Program will utilize available grant funding to address this disparity. 


Any proposal that seeks to build a facility to process, consolidate, and store recyclables (hub) and/or includes plans to offer public drop-off locations for recyclables in outlying communities (spokes) qualifies as a Hub-and-Spoke recycling system. Equally important will be evidence of a partnership that exists between the hub and the spokes, ensuring the recyclables collected in the region flow from the spokes to the hub for processing. Hub-and-Spoke proposals will be considered Tier 1 under the RREO Grant Program’s list of priorities; however, the proposal may be bumped to a lower priority tier if it is determined that it does not meet the definition of a Hub-and-Spoke system. 


Hub-and-Spoke proposals will be considered Tier 1 under the RREO Grant Program’s list of priorities; however, the proposal may be bumped to a lower priority tier if it is determined that it does not meet the definition of a Hub-and-Spoke system. Review the self determination flow chart, which clarifies what makes a Tier 1 proposal.


Hub-and-Spoke: Grant Application Guidelines


Specific guidelines for Hub-and-Spoke proposals can be found on the Request for Applications page, though all Hub-and-Spoke proposals will be expected to: 

  • increase resource conservation by creating new recycling and waste diversion collection and processing programs; 
  • provide an opportunity for small, rural communities to process and/or collect materials for marketing; 
  • create greater recycling economies of scale in rural, underserved areas of the state;
  • maintain current solid waste jobs and/or create new and permanent jobs directly and indirectly;
  • provide a long-term, sustainable operational and financial commitment;  
  • improve transportation energy efficiency by consolidating recycling materials; and 
  • reduce environmental impact, from resource extraction to products made from virgin materials.



The recyclables collected in a Hub-and-Spoke system are limited to what is traditionally found in the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) stream, and should include some combination of paper and containers. “Paper” includes cardboard, paperboard, newspaper/magazines, and office paper/opened mail. “Containers” include #1 & #2 plastic containers (and may include plastics #3 - #7), aluminum/steel cans, and glass bottles/jars. This list is not all-inclusive. Hub-and-Spoke applications may propose to collect additional materials beyond only paper and containers, but applications at the very least must include some combination of both paper and containers that will be collected from the general public.


Whenever practical, applicants should consider organizing their Hub-and-Spoke system to collect source-separated recyclables, or recyclables which are segregated by type at the collection point. Source-separated recyclables maintain a higher value for each commodity and help address a growing concern within the recycling industry about contamination. Proposals will not be penalized if the applicant prefers to collect single-stream recyclables in their Hub-and-Spoke system.


Hub-and-Spoke: Signage


Appropriate signage communicates to the public what materials they can recycle. Consider signage needs at the collection facility and on individual containers, and how they might differ. Signs printed in a language other than English may be needed. Consider incorporating pictures to show examples of what is acceptable and/or what is not acceptable. Allow space within the poster’s design to credit the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for their assistance in funding the project. Focus on how the signage used in this project can be designed in such a way that it can be understood at a glance. It is widely regarded that with any signage there is a three second window of time to capture someone’s attention and convey a message. Signage should be developed with this in mind.



Additional Resources


The following articles explain how the New Mexico Recycling Coalition implemented the Hub-and-Spoke model. Provided links reveal the first page of the article. Please refer to the November and December 2011 issues of Resource Recycling for the full article.








A 'letter of commitment' is often confused as being identical to a 'letter of support’; however there is a fundamental difference between the two.  A letter of support states that a local government agent or community group endorses or approves of the project.  A letter of commitment, on the other hand, is a statement of active participation in the project by an entity that will play an important role in the project’s implementation.  It specifies resources that the entity will commit to the project and identifies what role they will play in achieving the project’s goals. This does not need to be a legally bidning document. It is required that Hub-and-Spoke applicants submit, at the very least, a letter of commitment signed by each partner in the Hub-and-Spoke network being proposed. A Memorandum of Understanding, an Inter-Agency Agreement, or formal contracts with each entity are also acceptable.






Please direct questions to 303-691-4955 or cdphe.ppp2@state.co.us