Proposed ballot initiative could require Denver businesses to provide compost and recycling services

Proposed ballot initiative could require Denver businesses to provide compost and recycling services

State law currently prohibits the city from collecting compost and recycling at large apartment buildings and commercial properties.

Subscribe

A new ballot initiative proposed by Denver climate activists hopes to keep more of the city’s waste out of landfills.

The plan, dubbed “Waste No More,” would require all businesses—such as apartments, condos, restaurants, hospitals, hotels and sporting arenas—to provide compost and recycling pickup services, reports the Denverite.

State law currently prohibits the city from collecting compost and recycling at large apartment buildings and commercial properties.

“That’s a big gap right now,” Kate Bailey, policy director at Eco-Cycle, a Boulder-based nonprofit aimed at reducing waste, told the Denverite. “The city of Denver does a great job providing recycling to single-family homes, but multifamily properties are not serviced by the city, and so there’s a real lack of recycling services on multifamily properties.”

Construction companies would also face new rules for disposing of materials like concrete, metal and wood in a more environmentally friendly way, with food and cement accounting for 89 percent of the city’s total solid waste, according to a 2020 report by Denver’s Climate Action Task Force.

The Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) would enforce the change, according to the draft language, and establish penalties such as fines or loss of licenses. Neither DOTI nor the mayor’s office commented on the initiative, which must get about 9,000 signatures before making it to the November 2021 ballot.

If voters pass Waste No More, the changes will begin for businesses beginning in June 2023, 2024 or 2025, depending on the size of the operation.

The activists hope the initiative will improve Colorado’s recycling record. In 2019, Colorado managed to keep 15.9 percent of its waste out of landfills, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment. That number fell well below the national average (35 percent) and state targets (28 percent by 2021).