Compost Rules Have Changed

Our region’s only commercial compost manufacturer, A1 Organics, has changed what materials they accept from all communities along the Front Range. These changes are in response to contamination challenges across the region. If we all do our part, A1 can continue to create clean compost that can be used to revive soils and grow nutritious local food.

Only compost:

  • Food scraps
    • Including meat, bones, dairy, coffee grounds and eggshells.

  • Plant and yard trimmings
    • Leaves, twigs, flowers, grass and other lawn trimmings.

If it was on a customer’s plate or your cutting board, put it in the compost bin. Please place materials loose in your compost collection container.

Only compost food scraps.

Download and print the new sorting signs:

Have questions? Here are some answers! 

Keep these out of your compost bin – they belong in the trash:

  • All compostable packaging and products, including certified compostable utensils, cups, plates and to-go containers. Please do not put cups in the recycling stream. Disposable plastic and compostable cups are not recyclable.
  • Paper products, like towels and napkins. Please avoid shredding paper. If you do shred it, it goes in the trash.
  • Coffee filters and tea bags. Put coffee grounds and tea leaves into your compost bin and trash the filter or bag.
  • Pizza boxes. Please throw away the greasy half of the box and recycle the clean half.
  • Many bags are not allowed. Keep plastic bags out.

Check out A1 Organics' website for a list of allowed compostable bags.

Do not compost plastic or large compost bags, produce stickers, rubber bands, twist ties, coffee filters, tea bags, greasy pizza boxes, paper products or takeout containers.

Got bag questions? Reach out to your waste hauler for more information.

The city recognizes that changes in accepted materials for compost collection by A1 Organics are causing problems related to compliance with the existing Universal Zero Waste Ordinance requirements outlined in Boulder Revised Code 6-3-13, 6-3-14, and 6-3-15. The City of Boulder is currently collaborating with regional partners on potential solutions. For now, the city will pause enforcement of compost requirements in these code sections until further notice. Commercial and multifamily complex properties, along with special events, will not be penalized for discontinuing compost collection services.

  • Remove compost bins from customer spaces.
  • Post new food only signs above kitchen and bar compost bins.
  • Communicate these changes to staff and include compost guidelines in all new employee orientations. The city has a Waste Sorting 101 web guide and sorting game to help staff learn the basics.

Find more waste sorting resources on the city’s Universal Zero Waste Ordinance webpage.

Yes! All restaurants create large amounts of food waste and the city’s compost collection requirement for food businesses remains in effect. The only sure way to divert food scraps from the landfill is to have kitchen staff collect them in food prep areas and bussing staff sort what they clear off customer tables.

Continue to use your compostable products but tell customers and employees to put these products in the trash. We understand that this contradicts prior guidance and may not feel good, but this must be done to ensure your compost doesn’t end up in the landfill. If you have unopened cases of compostable products, you may be able to return them to the vendor who sold them to you.

No, compostable products are not recyclable. Please put them in the trash.

Boulder’s circular economy goals include reusing items much as possible.

The city just launched an incentive of up to $2,000 per business to support reusable systems and dining items. Visit Partners for A Clean Environment’s website for more information.

If you have dishwashing facilities, switch to reusables.

  • Stock your break room with reusable mugs, plates, forks and spoons. On a tight budget? Many thrift stores have affordable, reusable cutlery and tableware for sale.

No dishwasher?

  • Switch to reusables! Sign up for a local reusable service like, DeliverZero or r.Cup. These companies make it easy to choose reusable containers while saving you money on single-use packaging.
    • DeliverZero, stocks businesses with durable, reusable takeout containers.
    • r.Cup provides reusable cups to entertainment venues and events.
  • Provide disposables to customers by request only. If your business uses an online ordering platform, create an opt-in checkbox for single-use items.
  • Create a reuse culture in your workplace by encouraging employees to pack their own reusable utensils, cups and napkins for lunch in and out.
  • Use recyclable containers as a last resort. Be sure to check the city’s Waste Sorting 101 guide to see which to-go containers are recyclable.

Have questions about reusables?

Reach out to Partners for A Clean Environment by emailing or calling 303-786-7223.

  • Use unlined, small containers that staff can carry to compost carts and dumpsters. Any bucket will work well to collect food scraps.
  • Line larger compost containers with bags and have staff remove them after dumping contents loose into a cart or dumpster. Reuse bags for as long as possible. When they can no longer be used, put them in the trash.

Stay tuned for more bag-free strategies and support.

  • Keep your bins out of direct sunlight.
  • Use local cart washing services. Your hauler may offer one.
  • Increase waste hauling service frequency.

Contact your hauler; they can provide guidance.

Reach out to your waste hauler to request a locking bar or lid for your compost container. Also ask for additional resources, like signage.

The Front Range has one regional compost manufacturer, A1 Organics, where all our local waste haulers take compost for processing. A1 has changed compost sorting rules because they are experiencing high levels of contamination in the compostable materials they receive from businesses and community members across the region.

Plastic, glass, metals, latex gloves and more are mistakenly placed into compost bins. When composted, these contaminants break down into sharp pieces or microplastics, leaving A1 with a product they cannot sell.

On the other hand, food scraps and plant trimmings make excellent compost for gardens and farms. Read A1’s notice to haulers and municipalities.

A pile of clean compost versus contaminated compost.

For now. While we cannot predict how guidelines might change in the future, we know that quality compost is made of food scraps and plant material. We also know that phasing out all disposable products, including recyclable and compostable to-go containers, is part of building a better climate future.

Compostable bags often contain and conceal contamination. Help A1 and your waste hauler make sure your compost is free of contaminants by skipping compostable bags.

Note that there are three exceptions to the no bag rule:

  1. Food service businesses may collect and dispose of food scraps in large, compostable bin liners.
  2. Residents are allowed to use small CMA-approved compostable bags. Bags must be three gallons or smaller. Visit A1 Organics' website for a list of accepted bags.
  3. Many waste haulers are still collecting large, brown paper bags used for yard trimmings. These bags must be left next to your compost cart. Please check with your waste hauler for more information.

There are multiple reasons.

  • For every certified compostable product, there are several more look-alikes that seem compostable. In truth, they often contain harmful plastics.
  • Unfortunately, the volume of contamination A1 receives due to misleading labeling and non-compostable look-alikes makes any packaging or product too costly to accept.
  • The same is true for paper. Many paper to-go containers are coated in plastic. This coating leads to microplastics in compost.
  • Compostable bags often contain and conceal contamination.

Compostable products were not commonly used until relatively recently. As their popularity has grown, they have spurred a rush of look-alikes in the marketplace. While compostable bags and food containers can be useful, the task of identifying what is actually compostable is next to impossible.

Starting April 1, 2023, compost truckloads containing anything other than food scraps, plant and yard trimmings will be refused by the company and sent to the landfill. Please contact your waste hauler for more information.

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