Diverting Residential Waste From Landfills
CAP Management recently joined the City and County of Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability & Resiliency, on a tour of Denver’s solid waste management programs.
What Did We Learn?
Denver only diverts 26% of our waste from landfills, sending 244,919 thousand tons of waste each year to the least preferred waste disposal channels. While the amount of diversion and sustainable disposal practices has doubled since 2010, we are far behind cities on the East and West Coasts where landfill space is even more limited. Waste also negatively impacts Denver’s climate goals, accounting for 21% of total greenhouse gas emissions within the city.
We Visited Three Sites To Learn More About Waste:
Our first stop was the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site, a 1,363-acre landfill owned by the City & County of Denver and run by the City’s Solid Waste Management Department. The tour bus climbed over 270 feet in elevation to the top of the trash heap, a hill visible from miles around. The landfill receives trash 24 hours a day, 6 days a week, at an average of eight to twelve thousand tons of trash each day! What was striking was the amount of recyclable and compostable materials that could have been diverted – a wasted opportunity for more sustainable disposal options.
Our next stop took us to Keenesburg, where A-1 Organics runs their Rattler Ridge composting service. With Denver as one of their top suppliers, A-1 successfully diverts over 425,000 tons of waste each year from Colorado landfills. The result is high-quality composts, mulches, and other recycled landscaping materials, some of which are used by our HOA landscaping companies. With 35% of residential waste made up of compostable organic waste (food and yard debris), there is significant opportunity to divert more waste from the landfill through expanded composting participation.
The final stop was at the GFL (Green For Life) municipal recycling facility, often referred to as a “MuRF.” GFL’s facility processes all recycling for Denver, which is approximately 100 tons of recyclables a day. The facility uses cutting-edge technologies, such as ballistic separators, optical sorters, and robots to sort out contamination and bundle recyclable materials for reuse.
Denver has a great video showing the inner workings of the recycling center here: https://youtu.be/o5Dng5xVsNI.
The video includes helpful recommendations on exactly how to place items into your purple cart, such as:
- Do not crush cans or containers
- There is no need to rinse out bottles, but do empty them of all liquid
- No “nesting” of containers into cardboard boxes, which should be flattened
- Plastic bottle caps can be included if all liquid is emptied – no need to wash!
Denver’s goal is to divert 50% of solid waste destined for landfills by 2027, nearly double where the city stands today. One of the programs will be reversing the financial incentive for households, implementing a fee for waste hauling services while offering free composting and recycling. The city also plans to move from bi-weekly recycling collection to weekly collection to capture all recyclable materials. As you can imagine, with more people shopping from home, there has been a significant increase in cardboard waste.
Finally, for many of our HOAs that must contract for waste and recycling services, there is a movement to pass a Universal Waste Reduction Ordinance. The November 2022 ballot in Colorado also has a bill that will require all Denver businesses, including condos and HOAs, to offer recycling and composting. These requirements have shown to drive the market to create economic solutions and sustainable disposal practices for communities to divert more waste from landfills to more eco-friendly channels.
CAP Management will continue to partner with the City and County as we advise our HOA clients on how to navigate waste diversion to help build sustainable communities and foster a community-driven HOA.