Denver’s citywide municipal compost pickup program is growing. Currently, A1 takes Denver’s waste, composts it and sells it in bulk for use on farms and other commercial operations. A new contract between Denver and A1 will extend their partnership for another five years and open the door for the two to sell smaller batches to the public for use in gardens and potted plants.
The City Council is expected to approve the new $3 million contract in the next few weeks. When the program started as a pilot project in 2008, Denver found that around 50 percent of the trash being sent to the landfill was compostable: things like food scraps, non-recyclable paper and yard debris.
All that organic waste creates environmental problems when it is buried in a landfill. “It doesn’t degrade the same way that it would if it were out in the open air because, in the landfill, you’re depriving of oxygen,” said Charlotte Pitt, Operations Manager at Denver Solid Waste. “It degrades anaerobically and it creates methane, and methane is a greenhouse gas that’s about 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.”
Other cities in Colorado like Boulder, Aspen and Longmont have compost programs too. But the state is still way behind the national average when it comes to keeping waste out of landfills, Pitt said.
Around 34 percent of the nation’s waste is currently being diverted for other uses. Denver’s percentage is about 12 percentage points lower. Denver’s goal is to make up that difference by 2020, but there is a long way to go. So far, only 11 percent of eligible homes in Denver — single-family homes — have signed up for compost pickup.
The number of participants in the program has nearly doubled every year since it began, Pitt said. It has grown from one route serving 3,000 homes to 11 routes serving 18,000 homes. Last year, Denver residents diverted around 9,000 tons of waste from methane-producing landfills to compost. Part of the program’s success, according to Yost, is that homeowners have to sign up and pay for a compost bin.