Denver Releases Plan to Double Recycling and Composting Over the Next Five Years

DENVER —  The City and County of Denver today released its Sustainable Resource Management Plan as an update to the city’s 2010 Solid Waste Master Plan, a collaboration between the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency (CASR), the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) and the Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE).

The primary vision of this plan is to divert 50 percent of all solid waste away from the landfill and to recycling or composting by 2027 and to increase that rate to 70 percent by 2032. Achieving a 50 percent diversion rate will create a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that would be comparable to taking more than 600,000 cars off the road. The plan also calls for bolstering the principles and practices of a circular economy, or minimizing or eliminating waste, such as composting organic material that can be used to increase soil health rather than sending it to the landfill. 

“Through focused efforts over the last ten years, Denver has been able to increase its diversion rate from 13 percent in 2010 to 26 percent in 2020,” said Grace Rink, Denver’s Chief Climate Officer. “While we have made progress, this rate has remained stagnant and falls well below the national average of 34 percent. Reaching a higher diversion rate will require new strategies, and this plan will get us there.” 

Consultation with subject matter experts and members of the resident-led 2020 Climate Action Task Force resulted in the recommended short- and long-term tactics, including: 

  • Advancing policy at the local level that would increase recycling and composting, while continuing to advocate for policy at the state level that could limit the use of certain materials and prevent waste at the source; 
  • Improving operations between city agencies and with other partners throughout the city to create economically viable waste diversion solutions and programs, and;
  • Educating residents and businesses on responsible waste habits that promote a more sustainable future, including how to properly manage our individual and collective waste. 

Within the last year, CASR has already started this work with the Bring Your Own Bag ordinance, launched in July 2021, that created a $0.10 fee for plastic and paper bags provided at checkout. CASR also worked to advance the #SkiptheStuff ordinance in January 2022 that reduces the amount of single-use items provided with takeout or delivery.

Additionally, DOTI is advancing a proposal for a new ordinance that would expand waste services with weekly recycling and composting and begin charging a fee, and is one of the proven strategies to increasing diversion rates recommended in the Sustainable Resource Management Plan. An informational review of the expanded waste service proposal will be presented at the April 26 meeting of City Council’s committee on Land Use, Transportation, and Infrastructure. 

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