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More Than Half of Boulder’s Trash Now Diverted From Landfill

Newly released data indicates 53% of city waste recycled, composted or reused in 2020

The Boulder community has taken the adage “waste not, want not” to heart. Newly released waste diversion data for 2020 shows that 53% of citywide waste was kept out of the landfills through recycling, composting or reuse — representing an additional 3% of diverted waste when compared to 2019.

The data also revealed an 8% decrease in the total volume of waste community members sent to landfills. Overall, the city saw a 3% decrease in total waste generated, which includes both waste sent to the landfill and recycled waste. This indicates progress, not only in the realm of reducing our landfilled waste and improving rates of recycling and composting within our community, but also in driving down total waste per capita, which is more representative of consumptive behavior.

Single family homes led the charge in waste diversion, with nearly 60% of waste rerouted from the landfill, according to the data. City businesses diverted roughly 52% of their waste, with multifamily homes coming in next at 47%. 

To help multifamily homes move the needle, in 2021, the city launched an initiative with Eco-Cycle to create more targeted programs in apartments and townhomes to ensure ease of access to recycling and composting, as well as to promote greater education around such efforts and resources.

Waste reduction is a key pillar of our city’s climate initiatives work. Reducing the waste we generate and send to landfills can help us to achieve emissions targets and build tomorrow’s resilient, circular economy. To guide the city on its path to zero waste, in 2006, the city council established a target of 85% waste diversion across all sectors by 2025.

“The recently released data signals a robust community commitment to achieving zero waste,” said Sustainability Data and Policy Analyst Lauren Tremblay. “We applaud our community’s efforts in making meaningful progress toward realizing this key climate goal."

The pandemic yielded challenges for the city’s zero-waste work, however, and the impacts of COVID-19 were on clear display within the 2020 data.

"We saw significant reductions in waste pick-ups  in the commercial sector, and a corresponding increase in the residential sector waste collection, matching the shift from office work to working from home,” said Tremblay.

During this time, the city also paused the bag ban at grocery stores and saw an increase in the use of disposable, one-time-use products like masks and sanitizing items. To address these concerns, the city launched programs, such as a subsidy for sustainable take-out containers ,  to support community recovery and help local restaurants to adopt better materials management.

“It is incredibly encouraging and speaks greatly of our community that, even in these difficult times, we still saw an increase in waste diversion rates across all sectors,” said Tremblay.

Learn more about City of Boulder’s Zero Waste Diversion program:

Posted:  April 29, 2021

Media Contact

Rebecca Harris Sullivan, 303-441-4367