Program aims at 100 percent participation of residents

The city of Durango wants to start a city-wide compost collection program to help meet their sustainability goals. (Jerry McBride / Durango Herald)

The city of Durango is implementing a city-wide roadside compost collection program as part of its ecological sustainability goals.

Durango is looking to meet its benchmarks set for 2030 and 2050 to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and increase its use of renewable electricity. The city’s efforts go hand in hand with similar goals around the world to combat climate change. A composting service for city dwellers is a step towards achieving these goals, according to the city.

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

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

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

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

Greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide bind heat in the atmosphere. The gases lead to climate change depending on their concentration, longevity in the atmosphere and the heat storage properties of each gas, says the EPA.

For southwest Colorado, the effects of climate change are expected to include decreased rainfall, droughts, increased heat, insect outbreaks, increased forest fires and decreased agricultural yields.

Greenhouse gases are produced naturally and through human activities such as agriculture, the use of fossil fuels for transportation and electricity, and household and business waste.

Anaerobic decomposition of wastes, such as organic material in landfills and sewage, creates methane. According to the EPA, the radiation-trapping effect of methane is 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a period of 100 years.

In Durango, around 20% of residential and 26% of Durango’s commercial waste is food waste. According to a 2015 waste audit, around 27% of municipal waste consists of other organic material, including farm waste.

The city is planning a five-year rollout of its composting service, operated by a private waste transport and composting company.

It has already obtained offers from potential companies and selected a successful bidder. The bidder did not accept the order until Thursday, said city spokesman Tom Sluis.

On Thursday it was unclear whether Table to Farm Compost, which already operates in Durango, was the bidder for the program. Table to Farm provides roadside composting for homes and businesses in the Durango area.

The public-private partnership would include educational outreach. After collection, the relevant waste material is composted in a certified composting facility.

For city residents and companies, the service would initially be voluntary. The city aims to achieve 100% participation for private customers in the first three years of the program.

The program would not be a free service for residents and businesses. However, in its tender, the city emphasized the development of an accessible fee and funding structure for low to middle income households and possibly for independent minority owned businesses.

“Providing ways to divert food waste while increasing training on existing recycling programs and ways to reduce waste will be critical to reducing solid waste emissions and meeting the community’s greenhouse gas targets,” said Ainsworth.

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