May 27, 2016

New zero-waste rules impact Boulder businesses

The city of Boulder has long promoted efforts to reduce material sent to the landfill from residents and businesses through a combination of programs, incentives and ordinances.  These efforts sought to encourage recycling and composting, as they estimate 90 percent of what we send to the landfill could be diverted. While these efforts have resulted in a recycling and compost rate of 34 percent, which is almost three times the state average, the city currently is working on reaching a goal adopted by the city council in 2015 of 85 percent of our waste being recycled, composted or reused by 2025.

One of the key actions to help the city meet this goal occurred last June when the Boulder City Council formally approved the Universal Zero Waste Ordinance. Residents, business owners and property managers were given one year to become compliant with this new regulation, which aims to minimize waste sent to the landfill and help the community reach its stated sustainability goals. These new requirements take effect on June 17, bringing several changes to how Boulder businesses must deal with waste disposal.

A few key components of this ordinance impact Boulder business and property managers:

All properties including residential, commercial and multi-family must subscribe to trash, recycling and composting service for their tenants and occupants by June 17. Depending on your lease arrangement, these services must either be provided by the property manager, property owner or the business themselves. In addition, education and signage must be provided to ensure knowledge of recycling and composting.

All businesses must separate recyclables and compostables from the trash by providing properly placed containers and signage inside their business to facilitate the collection of recyclables and compostables by Sept. 17. This especially is important for business providing trash receptacles for their customers and employees as now recycle and compost containers must be available for their use.

All special events requiring a permit from the city of Boulder must provide both recycling and composting collection beginning June 17.

This ordinance has a few other sections that impact homeowners and specific events such as University of Colorado student move-in days as well. The complete city regulation can be found at

As a business, what does all this mean to you? First, it is a requirement, not just a guideline, that all businesses and property managers comply with these new rules, and there are penalties for noncompliance (in certain cases, you can apply for an exemption.

However, when we all comply with these regulations, we’ll be working together as a community to not only reduce the negative environmental impacts  of sending material to the landfill but also promote local economic and environmental benefits provided by recycling and composting right here in Boulder.

All of us at western Disposal believe that it takes everyone — consumers, businesses, local government and companies like ours — to meet Boulder’s overall diversion goals, and we’re proud to be a valued community partner in these efforts. We opened our composting facility in the city of Boulder in 2003, and it remains the only state-permitted composting facility in Boulder County.

While we support the city’s efforts to increase diversion, we also realize that composting will be new to many business owners, as well as their employees and tenants. To help with the transition, we invite everyone to check out composting tips and guidelines at Different cities throughout Boulder County have different guidelines, and we’ve made them all available on one handy page.

The choices we make every day impact the environment and our future, and we’re proud to support Boulder’s Zero Waste Initiative. Boulder is a leader in reducing environmental impact in many ways, and Western worked with Boulder to make us one of the first cities in Colorado to provide the convenience of curbside recycling. Continuing to make recycling — and now composting — part of the company culture of every business in Boulder is a logical and important next step.

Kevin Afflerbaugh is the environmental coordinator for Western Disposal Services. He can be reached at

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