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Denver holds second sustainability summit to plan future

DENVER -- Denver wants to become the nation's leader when it comes to sustainability.

But some say the city has a long way to go, especially when it comes to recycling.

The Mile High City's park system is one of many resources considered a priority for Denver's 2020 Sustainability Goals.

"The reality is sustainability is a journey,” Mayor Michael Hancock said. “And we don't see 2020 as the only destination, we see it as a time to step back, evaluate where we are, where we need to get stronger.”

The Colorado Public Interest Research Group, or Copirg said you have to look no further than alleyways  to see Denver has one of the worst recycling rates among similar cities. Just 18 percent of waste is recycled.

Copirg said Denver has a majority of multiunit apartment buildings where people have no option to recycle -- only trash dumpsters to throw things away.

"One major reason why we have really poor recycling is we're not making it easy to do the right thing,” Copirg director Danny Katz said.

"While it is accurate that we are below the rest of the country, we are definitely making progress,” said Denver’s Solid Waste manager Charlotte Pitts.

Pitts said it's hard for recycling to compete with cheap landfill costs. And waste management is just one of six areas targeted by this sustainability summit.

Drawing more than 500 leaders from nonprofits, business and government to brainstorm.

"The community is the renewable resource,” said Jerry Tinianow, Denver’s chief sustainability officer. “That makes every other resource possible. You have to nurture it and you have to build it. It's the foundation.”

Their ideas will help Denver sustain parks and open space, improve use of water resources and reduce the city's carbon footprint.