A new municipal composting program in Steamboat Springs marks the start of a pilot project and unique collaboration between the city and Innovative Regeneration Colorado, a local food waste prevention business. Before the program, there was no community-wide composting service in Routt County. Until about three years ago, Twin Enviro Resources at the landfill west of Milner collected food waste, but a lack of demand did not make the program economically feasible.
While some people compost on their own or take buckets to friends with a composting system, the majority of the food waste went to landfills. A local study last year found that Routt County residents toss about 50,000 pounds of food into the garbage each week. Diverting all that waste from the landfill reduces methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas that is known as a major contributor to climate change. The gas traps heat at a rate about 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Food waste that becomes compost also has beneficial uses, enriching soil for crops and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.
The city has been trying to start its own municipal composting program for more than a year. Steamboat Springs City Council approved a pilot program in March, but had to defund the initiative amid budget cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Brian Ashley, interim facilities manager for the city. After that program failed, Mark Berkley, founder of Innovative Regeneration Colorado, approached the city about taking on the task. “I think it’s a great first step toward establishing a long-term compost program in Steamboat Springs,” Ashley said.