Aspen City Council approves new Organics Waste Diversion ordinance
New law will divert organics from the trash, and thus the landfill
Aspen, Colo. – March 1, 2023 – Aspen City Council approved this week an ordinance that will prohibit organics from trash headed for landfill disposal.
The first phase of Ordinance 4 will be effective Oct. 15 and applies to restaurants and retail food operators.
In the coming years, all commercial businesses, multifamily properties, and every individual in Aspen will be required to separate organics from the trash.
Council’s 5-0 vote is part of the City of Aspen’s bold solid waste diversion goals, which include reducing organic materials going to the landfill by 25% by 2025 and 100% by 2050. Those goals support the City’s overall greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of 63% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
Voluntary participation for composting is resulting in roughly a 3% or 4% diversion rate of organic material from the landfill, which is nowhere near what the City needs to achieve its climate goals.
Trash produced by restaurants is an average of between 60-80% compostable, making them the largest generator of organic waste in the City.
“This ordinance is the single largest action the City has taken to reduce organics from being disposed of as landfill trash,” said Ainsley Brosnan-Smith, the City’s Waste Diversion and Recycling Program Administrator. “When food is buried in the landfill it produces methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, adding to Aspen’s greenhouse gas footprint. A 2022 study found 42.6% of the trash buried at the Pitkin County Solid Waste Center was organic material that could have been diverted for compost, avoiding the associated methane emissions of burying food.”
Organic material is the single largest category of material disposed of as trash in the City of Aspen. This mandate will return organic resources back to the community and the local environment, promoting a zero-waste culture.
“As a result of this ordinance, we hope to see restaurants reassess their food inventories and avoid the spoilage of unused food,” Brosnan-Smith said. “We are eager to start working with businesses one on one to prepare them for the first phase of this mandate on Oct. 15.”
The key elements of the organics waste diversion ordinance are that organic materials must be separated from materials thrown away as trash and alternatively disposed in a recoverable manner, as well as receptacles stored outdoors in the commercial core are required to be certified wildlife-proof.
Effective Jan. 15, 2026, all commercial businesses and multifamily properties must separate organics from substances designated for trash disposal, according to Ordinance 4.
Effective Jan. 15, 2028, everyone within city limits generating organic waste must separate organics from substances designated for trash disposal.
The Environmental Health and Sustainability Department will educate and enforce the new law and will be available to businesses and individuals to help make the transition as smooth as possible.
For more information, go to https://aspen.gov/357/Waste-Recycling, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ainsley Brosnan-Smith, Waste Diversion and Recycling Program Administrator, (970) 618-9757, or Ainsley.email@example.com
Carolyn Sackariason, Communications Coordinator, (970) 319-2791, or Carolyn.firstname.lastname@example.org