Mar 31, 2023 - News

Major compost changes are coming to Colorado's Front Range

Materials that are not compostable sit in a pile after being separated from compostable materials at A1 Organics in 2019. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Composting across much of Colorado's Front Range is about to shrink.

What's happening: Starting Saturday, A1 Organics — Colorado's largest commercial compost company — is no longer accepting paper materials or compostable packaging.

  • Acceptable items for residential and commercial composting will be limited to food scraps, plant trimmings, and 3-gallon certified compostable bags.
  • That means products like paper plates, pizza boxes, napkins and takeout containers should go straight to the trash.

What they're saying: In late February, A1 Organics said the switch is in response to a surge in non-compostable look-alike products as composting efforts have taken off across Denver and much of the Front Range — the region the company serves.

The other side: Denver City Councilmember Jolon Clark called the decision by A1 a "terrible idea," arguing that the company is moving in the opposite direction of city voters who have "repeatedly asked for better [trash] diversion," even at the ballot box.

  • "It would appear [A1 Organics] is unwilling to agree with how Denver is growing" and would rather adopt "draconian" rules than innovate like other cities and states, including California.
  • Clark said this moment provides a "great opportunity for someone in our community to step up and say, 'Hey, I'm ready to run a big city composting outfit.' And for us to contract with them."

Zoom in: The city of Denver is racing to get the word out to its 30,000 customers, many of whom are still adjusting to the city's new pay-as-you-throw-away trash system that launched in January.

  • However, Denver's transportation agency, which handles trash and composting, doesn't expect the changes will have a "huge impact … given that most of what people compost at home is food waste and yard debris," spokesperson Vanessa Lacayo told Axios Denver.
  • She added that A1 Organics and the city have a "shared goal to tackle contamination and create quality compost that can then be used for our Denver residents."

Of note: A spokesperson for A1 Organics did not respond to our requests for comment.

What we're watching: Whether the city renews its contract with the company, which is slated to expire on Jan. 31, 2024.


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