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New Data Shows Half of Boulder’s Trash Is Being Recycled or Composted

Boulder released today its most current diversion numbers, which show the community recycled and composted 50% of its waste in 2019.

The data also shows that residents and businesses sent 5% less waste to landfills through regularly scheduled curbside pickup, the measure that most directly relates to community behavior.

“Making composting and recycling easy and accessible is a priority for Boulder, and we have made great progress in that area,” said Sustainability Manager Kara Mertz. “Now, as part of our Climate Mobilization Action Plan, we are also looking at how to help our community identify ways to use fewer resources – from production all the way to disposal, and to keep materials in circulation longer by finding opportunities to prevent waste in the first place.”

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.

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 due to the city’s implementation of rigorous quality control measures that helped address reporting errors in the information received from third-party haulers.

While the change in data collection means the 2019 diversion rate is 7% lower than in 2018 (when it was calculated to be 57%), 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. 

About Zero Waste in Boulder 

Creating a more circular economy is a focus of the Climate Mobilization Action Plan, or CMAP. The city is committed to co-developing a new climate action plan with the community that addresses the climate emergency through systemic change.   

In June 2015, Boulder City Council adopted the Universal Zero Waste Ordinance to help meet its zero waste goal of diverting 85% of waste from the landfill. For more information about Boulder’s zero waste goals and Universal Zero Waste Requirements, visit 

Published: July 31, 2020 


Media Contacts: 


Alexis Bullen, Media Relations: 303-441-1878 

Lauren Tremblay, Climate Initiatives: 303-441-3452