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Denver releases updated plan to double recycling, composting by 2027

Meeting goal would be equivalent of removing 600k cars off the road
Posted at 12:28 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 14:42:20-04

DENVER – The City of Denver has updated its plan to double recycling and composting over the next five years in an effort to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Denver’s Sustainable Resource Management Plan seeks to divert 50% of all solid waste away from landfills and into recycling or composting by 2027, with the goal to increase waste diversion to 70% by 2032.

A spokeswoman for Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability & Resiliency (CASR) said the plan will create a “drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that would be comparable to removing more than 600,000 cars off the road.”

As of 2020, Denver’s residential recycling and composting rate stood at 26%, below the national average of 34%, according to city data.

composting and recycling rates asa percent of waste stream.png

The data also shows residential waste diversion is 18% of the total, compared to 46% coming from industrial, commercial or institutional sources.

In order to meet that 50% goal by 2027, CASR officials said Tuesday they will focus in three areas: Policy, operations and engagement.

Denver will work to reduce landfill waste and increase recycling through innovative programs and policies at the local level, while advocating for “impactful policies” at the state level, the updated plan states.

One such policy would be to pass a Universal Waste Reduction Ordinance, or UWRO, which would establish waste diversion requirements for commercial and multi-family buildings, along with diversion requirements for construction and demolition debris.

The city will also seek to revise the Equal Space Ordinance, as they argue many commercial buildings in Denver lack adequate space for sorting waste at the point of collection.

It will also explore if Denver needs a cardboard disposal ban, since estimates show 47% of cardboard is sent to landfills from residential sectors and 57% is coming from the commercial sector.

The city’s CASR will also evaluate and improve waste management infrastructure by “fostering partnerships across the metropolitan area in all sectors of waste management and market development to create economically viable waste diversion programs,” the report states.

Last but not least, CASR officials hope by that educating the public as well as businesses on sustainable purchasing practices and how to manage individual and collective waste, Denver will be able to move to a more circular economy, create more jobs, extend the life of the city’s landfill and aid in beautifying the city’s streets, parks and neighborhoods while protecting sewers and waterways.

“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,” said Grace Rink, the city’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.”

City officials do acknowledge in the plan that due to low landfill disposal costs and the lack of existing waste regulation statewide, “achieving a 70% waste diversion goal by 2032 is a large undertaking and may be beyond reach without supportive policies both locally and at the state level.”

Some progress has been made by CASR to achieve these goals, including the implementation of the "Bring Your Own Bag" program, which charges a $0.10 fee for plastic and paper bags at grocery stories, and the office also worked to advance the "#SkiptheStuff" ordinance earlier this year, which reduces the use of single-use utensils or condiments provided at food takeout or delivery.

To view the full scope of the plan, click here.