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Heads Up - July 31, 2020

Here’s some need-to-know information for the week

Update on Zero Waste Diversion Numbers and Improved Data Collection Procedures

Boulder has released its most current diversion numbers, which show the community recycled and composted 50 percent of its waste in 2019. The data also shows that residents and businesses sent 5 percent less waste to landfills last year through regularly scheduled curbside pickup. Regularly scheduled service is an important measure to look at in addition to diversion, since it most directly relates to community behavior and the impact of ordinances and community education.

Waste diversion fluctuates over time due to many factors, including large construction projects, economic trends or natural disasters. Also, unlike greenhouse gas inventories or other sustainability measures, there is no standardized methodology across municipalities for tracking this metric. While Boulder continues to release diversion numbers each year as a way to track progress towards its current goal of becoming a zero waste community by 2025, the city is also exploring other potential metrics and measures of success as part of a “circular economy” approach in the Climate Mobilization Action Plan (CMAP) process.

The city’s 2019 diversion numbers are not directly comparable to prior years since they include new information not previously included due to data quality concerns. New drop-off data has been incorporated for the first time thanks to the city’s implementation of rigorous quality control measures, which that address reporting errors in the information received from third-party haulers.

While the change in data collection means the 2019 diversion rate is 7 percent lower than in 2018 (when it was calculated to be 57 percent), the city is committed to data transparency and is working with haulers to ensure the new, more standardized method is used going forward to report their waste data. Past years’ diversion numbers will not be re-analyzed, as haulers do not have detailed records, making it impossible to recreate past data any more accurately.

For more information about the city’s diversion numbers, Boulder’s zero waste plans or the circular economy portion of CMAP, contact Kara Mertz [email protected]