Bulldozer on landfill
Photo courtesy of Perytskyy - AdobeStock

Denver announces plans to double recycling and composting

The primary goal of this plan is to divert 50 percent of all solid waste from the landfill to recycling or composting by 2027 and to increase that rate to 70 percent by 2032.

April 25, 2022

The city and county of Denver has released its Sustainable Resource Management Plan. The goal is to double recycling and composting over the next five years.  

“This updated plan offers a comprehensive view of sustainable materials management strategies across the residential, commercial, construction and demolition (C&D) and industrial waste sectors,” the plan states.  

Officials plan to divert 50 percent of all solid waste from the landfill and put it into recycling or composting by 2027. Officials also plan to increase that rate to 70 percent by 2032. The proposal also calls for advancing a circular economy through composting organic material that can be used to increase soil health instead of sending it to the landfill.  

Officials say they hope to meet these goals through advancing policy at the local level that would increase recycling and composting while continuing to advocate for policy at the state level that could limit the use of certain materials and prevent waste at the source.   

The 10-page document also calls to improve operations between city agencies and other partners throughout the city to create economically viable waste diversion solutions and programs. It recommends improving education for residents and businesses on responsible waste habits that promote a more sustainable future.  

To meet these goals, the plan calls for the enactment of a Universal Waste Reduction Ordinance. The ordinance would establish diversion requirements for commercial and multifamily buildings and requirements for C&D debris. The proposal recommends exploring a cardboard disposal ban that would prohibit the disposal and collection of cardboard in waste receptacles. It would also lay the groundwork for future disposal bans such as food waste.  

Other long-term solutions laid out in the plan include pursuing grant funding for the county’s regional composting facility, considering policies that support deconstruction and diversion over demolition and creating new end markets for recovered material.  

Now, city officials are considering a proposal to implement a fee for waste hauling services for city residential customers. Officials say the fee will encourage waste reduction and provide free composting and recycling to all customers 

The proposal builds on the city’s “Solid Waste Master Plan for the Mile-High City,” first released in 2010. The plan saw the standardization of residential trash collection to automated carts, removing dumpsters and decreasing more than 300 pounds of waste per household. It also increased compost collection subscriptions from 1,600 homes in 2010 to over 30,000 homes in 2022. Despite that, Denver’s diversion rate is still behind the national average.  

“Through focused efforts over the last ten years, Denver has been able to increase its diversion rate from 13 percent in 2010 to 26 percent in 2020,” says Grace Rink, Denver’s chief climate officer, in a statement. “While we have made progress, this rate has remained stagnant and falls well below the national average of 34 percent. Reaching a higher diversion rate will require new strategies, and this plan will get us there.”