Learn how to comply with the ordinance.

Requirements, Guides and Video Tutorials


  • 2015 - Adopted
  • 2016 - Implemented
  • 2017 - Enforced

Meeting Ordinance Requirements

Understand Ordinance Requirements

The city’s Universal Zero Waste Ordinance requires all properties in Boulder to have waste services that provide separated compost, recycling and trash.

All businesses must:

  • Provide correctly placed collection containers.
  • Have required signs.
  • Train employees on proper sorting.

All property owners, both residential and commercial, must:

  • Subscribe to compost, recycling and trash collection service.
  • Regularly provide renters with information on where bins are located.

The city has created a step-by-step compliance guidebook PDF to assist with understanding and completing all the steps necessary to comply with ordinance requirements.

See additional steps and resources for each requirement below.

Download Signs

Clear, visible signs are an important tool to show employees, customers and tenants what materials go where, and achieve your zero waste goals. Click on the links below to download and print as many stock signs as you need.

Your can also request laminated signs and bin labels at no charge by emailing zerowaste@bouldercolorado.gov. Include your contact info, mailing address and the quantities and types of signs you would like.

Custom Signs

Custom signs are made just for you and show materials used at your business. Contact zerowaste@bouldercolorado.gov to be connected to a Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE) consultant who can help you create custom signs for free.

Compost, Recycling and Trash Collection Service

If you contract for trash services, contact a local waste hauler to sign up for recycling and compost collection services. If trash service is provided by your property owner, let them know about Boulder’s requirements, which include having recycling and compost collection services in addition to trash.

Note: The city does not provide municipal hauling services and does not determine or control rates or dictate appropriate levels of service.

Train Employees

Boulder’s Universal Zero Waste Ordinance requires businesses to recycle and compost, provide zero waste signs and educate employees on proper waste sorting.

Training is easy! To complete the training requirement, each employee needs to:


In limited cases, a business or property owner may apply for an exemption from complying with the requirements of the Universal Zero Waste Ordinance. In order to be granted an exemption, applicants must demonstrate they have considered all reasonable options that would bring their business or property into compliance.

Please review the exemption descriptions before submitting the Zero Waste Reporting Form that includes a section for exemption requests.

Need additional help?

Please contact zerowaste@bouldercolorado.gov or call 303-441-1931 to request assistance or inquire about available in-person advising services.

Compliance Reporting

Reporting requirements were suspended for 2020 and 2021 given the uncertainty and added stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022, restaurants and grocery stores must again report compliance with the ordinance using the city's online reporting form. The deadline to report was August 31, 2022.

Assistance is available through the city's Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE). Please contact ZeroWaste@bouldercolorado.gov or 303-441-1931 to be connected with a one-on-one advisor.

Businesses that complete and submit the reporting form will qualify for free compostable bin liners through the Green Bag Giveaway program.


Enforcement Process

Enforcement is handled by the Climate Initiatives Department and the Code Enforcement Division of the Police Department.

When the city becomes aware of noncompliance, either through a complaint, failure to report compliance when required or inspection of the premises, a two-warning process begins prior to a fine.

  • The first warning is a 30-day Notice of Pending Violation letter sent by Climate Initiatives staff.
  • If the steps to become compliant are not completed within the 30 days allowed, the case will be referred to Code Enforcement at the Police Department for further investigation.
  • If compliance is not achieved within 14 days of Code Enforcement opening an investigation, fines begin to be assessed.

Boulder Revised Codes 6-3-13, 6-3-14 and associated City Manager's Rules.

Fines for Noncompliance

If compliance is not achieved within 14 days of Code Enforcement opening an investigation, a fine of $500 will be assessed, followed by second fine of $1000, then fines of $2000 for each occurrence, if compliance is not reached upon subsequent 14-day inspections.

Boulder Revised Code 6-3-18 - Violations.

Report a Property or Business for Noncompliance

Report a Lack of Service, Bins or Signs

You can let the city know if a business you frequent might need help with zero waste bins, signs or education or if a commercial or residential property may be lacking service.

The Inquire Boulder form can be used to report:

  • A house, apartment building, HOA or condo complex without composting, recycling and/or trash service.
  • A business or commercial property owner that doesn't offer composting, recycling and/or trash service.
  • A business with incorrect or missing composting and/or recycling signs and/or bins.