Voters could decide to compost apartment buildings and businesses and recycle their waste
Denver climate activists are proposing a new voting initiative to keep much more of the city’s waste out of landfills.
The plan, called “Waste no more“, would require all businesses – apartments, condos, restaurants, hospitals, hotels and sports arenas, to name some among many others – provide compost collection and recycling services. State law prohibits the city from collecting compost and recycling in large apartment buildings and commercial properties.
“It’s a big gap right now,” said Kate Bailey, policy director of Eco-Cycle, a Boulder-based nonprofit aimed at reducing waste. “The City of Denver does a great job providing recycling for single family homes, but multi-family properties are not serviced by the city, and therefore there is a real lack of recycling services on multi-family properties.”
Construction companies would also face new rules for disposing of materials like concrete, metal and wood in a more environmentally friendly way.
Food and cement make up 89 percent of the city’s solid waste, which contributes to harmful greenhouse gases, according to a 2020 report from the Denver Climate Action Task Force.
“I think any Denver resident could take this for granted,” climate activist Ean Tafoya, who submitted the proposal, which Eco-Cycle helped build, told the city government on Tuesday. Tafoya, with Brandon Rietheimer, submitted a separate carbon tax proposal at the city attorney’s office the same day.
Drew Hamrick, vice president of government affairs for the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, whose members are expected to pay private carriers under the new setup, said his organization was not “an enemy of recycling.” But he also questioned the logistics of effectively recycling and composting dozens or hundreds of different households in one building when “the recycled materials going into the recycling bin with a plastic garbage bag around are enough to lift the waste. system ”.
Hamrick also said the cost was not worth it.
“If you pay someone to pick it up, it’s garbage,” Hamrick said.
The Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure would enforce the change, according to the text of the draft, and establish penalties such as fines or loss of licenses. Neither DOTI nor the mayor’s office have commented on the initiative, which is due to collect around 9,000 signatures before it goes to the November 2021 poll.
If voters embrace Waste No More, changes will begin for businesses from June 2023, 2024 or 2025, depending on the size of the operation.
Campaigners hope the initiative will improve Colorado’s dismal recycling record. In 2019, Colorado managed to keep 15.9% of its waste out of landfills, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That number has fallen well below the national average (35%) and state targets (28% by 2021).
“Colorado, as a state, is terrible for recycling,” Bailey said. “We have one of the worst recycling rates in the country. So moving Denver, our biggest city, really is a huge way to move recycling forward across the state. “
Bailey added that Boulder shows the promise of Denver’s poll initiative. The smaller city passed a similar zero waste ordinance in 2015. Three years later, its diversion rate fell from 39 to 57 percent.
Mayor Michael Hancock put his long talk – but not implemented – pending city-wide composting program last year, citing the pandemic.
This article has been corrected to reflect the fact that the diversion rate has increased from 39 percent (not 29) to 57 percent.