Colorado county aims for zero waste
The program is designed to help the county meet its goal of diverting 50 percent of countywide waste from its landfill by 2010 and zero waste—“or darn near”—by 2025.
The county launched the pilot in its four downtown Boulder buildings, including the historic county courthouse. The goal is to divert as much potential waste as possible by making it easy for employees to reuse, recycle or compost products instead of throwing them away.
Under the arrangement, custodial staff members collect commingled containers and mixed paper at all desks. They also collect compost from kitchens, restrooms (paper towels), conference rooms and common areas.
The program enables recycling and composting not only by county employees but also by the public. Clearly labeled composting and recycling bins, for instance, now stand in numerous public locations.
“This pilot will help us structure and implement a zero-waste program for all county buildings, as well as provide a model for local businesses to follow as they implement zero-waste strategies,” Boulder County Sustainability Coordinator Ann Livingston said.
Zero Waste Resolution adopted in 2005
The pilot is a key step in helping Boulder County meet the goals set forth in its Zero Waste Resolution, adopted in 2005, which calls for a 50 percent diversion rate (the amount of waste diverted from the landfill) by 2010.
“You’d be surprised how much you can divert from your trash can,” said Eric Heyboer, resource conservation specialist for the Boulder County Resource Conservation Division. “And it’s not just about saving space in landfills—a zero-waste approach saves energy, reduces pollution and conserves natural resources.”
In addition to the full zero-waste pilot program, five office complexes in Boulder and Longmont have been participating in a composting pilot program since 2006, in which county employees volunteer to maintain compost bins located throughout their buildings.
Recycling has long been a tradition at Boulder County, and recycling bins for commingled containers and mixed paper products are located at all county offices.
The county’s efforts also extend to educating the public about reducing, reusing, recycling and composting. The Boulder County Resource Conservation Division regularly hosts free tours of the recycling center and offers public compost workshops to teach individuals easy ways to turn their yard and food waste into rich soil amendments.
In 2006, Boulder County facilities diverted 27 percent of waste
In 2006, according to the county, Boulder County facilities:
- Attained a 27 percent diversion rate (the amount of waste diverted from landfills).
- Recycled 189 tons of mixed paper, cardboard and confidential documents—47 tons more than in 2005.
- Recycled 8.6 tons of commingled containers.
- Recycled 8.1 tons of electronic waste.
- Composted 2,900 pounds of organic material via the office-composting program.
By diverting these materials, Boulder County:
- Saved enough energy to power 100 Colorado homes for an entire year.
- Saved enough water to supply the entire city of Louisville, Colo., for one day.
- Saved enough paper/fiber to save 3,200 trees.
- Prevented 116 garbage trucks from dumping at the landfill.
For more information, visit the Boulder County Resource Conservation Division Web site.