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Durango plans citywide composting service

Program aims for 100% resident participation
The city of Durango wants to start a citywide, curbside compost collection program to meet its sustainability goals. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The city of Durango is digging into a citywide, curbside compost collection program as part of its environmental sustainability goals.

Durango is trying to meet its benchmarks, set for 2030 and 2050, to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and increase use of renewable electricity. The city’s effort parallels similar goals around the world intended to combat climate change. A compost service for city residents is one step toward meeting those goals, according to the city.

“Ultimately, the goal is to get as close to net zero waste emissions as possible,” said Imogen Ainsworth, the city’s sustainability coordinator.

In 2019, the city of Durango decided to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, compared to 2016 levels.

In 2016, solid waste disposal accounted for about 5% of the city’s emissions, according to city documents.

Composting wasted food and other organics, however, significantly reduces methane emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Greenhouse gases, like methane and carbon dioxide, trap heat in the atmosphere. The gases lead to climate change depending on their concentration, longevity in the atmosphere and heat-trapping characteristics of each gas, the EPA says.

For Southwest Colorado, impacts of climate change are expected to include decreased precipitation, droughts, increased heat, insect outbreaks, increased wildfires and reduced agricultural yields, according to NASA.

Greenhouse gases occur naturally and through human activities such as agriculture, fossil fuel use for transportation and electricity, and waste from homes and businesses.

Anaerobic decomposition of waste, like organic material in landfills and wastewater, produces methane. The radiation-trapping effect of methane is 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, according to the EPA.

In Durango, about 20% of residential and 26% of commercial waste in Durango is food waste. About 27% of residential waste is made up of other organic material, including yard waste, according to a 2015 waste audit.

The city plans a five-year launch of its composting service, which will be operated by a private waste hauling and composting company.

It has already called for bids from potential companies and selected a winning bidder. The bidder had not accepted the contract as of Thursday, said Tom Sluis, city spokesman.

It was unclear Thursday if Table to Farm Compost, which already operates in Durango, was the bidder for the program. Table to Farm offers curbside composting for residences and businesses in the Durango area.

The public-private partnership would include educational outreach to the community. Once collected, appropriate waste material would be composted at a certified compost facility.

The service would initially be voluntary for city residents and businesses. The city aims to scale up to 100% participation for residential customers over the first three years of the program.

The program would not be a free service for residents and businesses. However, in its request for bids, the city emphasized developing an accessible fee and funding structure for low- to moderate-income households and possibly for independent minority-owned businesses.

“Providing opportunities for food waste diversion while ramping up education around existing recycling programs and opportunities for waste reduction will be critical to reducing solid waste emissions and achieving community greenhouse gas emissions goals,” Ainsworth said.


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