Organic Waste Diversion & Scraps Compost Collection

Chapter 12.05 – Organic Waste Diversion

On Feb. 28, Aspen City Council is slated to adopt a new ordinance that prohibits organic material, such as food, from disposal as landfill trash. Organics must be alternatively disposed of as compost, or donation for people or animals. 

The proposed ordinance will have 3 phases:

  1. September 1st, 2023, all businesses with a Retail Food License in the city limits must comply.
  2. January 1st, 2026, all commercial businesses and multifamily properties will comply.
  3. January 1st, 2028, every owner or occupant of a premises within the city limits will comply.

In 2021, City Council set organic waste reduction goals of 25% by 2025 and 100% by 2050. Over the last 10 years voluntary participation in organics diversion has only removed 3-4%, per year, of organics from the landfill. When landfilled, organics do not break down quickly and produce a greenhouse gas, methane, known to be more potent than CO2.

The EHS department will offer staff trainings, signage and inside and outdoor compost receptacles. 

Questions? Contact: Ainsley Brosnan-Smith or Jimena Baldino 

Ainsley.Brosnan-Smith@Aspen.Gov                 Jimena.Baldino@Aspen.Gov

Scraps Composting Program for Residents

The Scraps compost collection program is a joint effort between the City of Aspen and the Pitkin County Landfill to assist residents and businesses in compost collection by providing free collection containers and education. 

Composting is the act of processing unwanted organic material, like food waste, into a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer that naturally improves soil quality. It is a best practice for reducing carbon emissions in our atmosphere because it diverts organic waste from the landfill, reducing methane and conserving space in our landfill, which is reaching capacity. Creating compost locally also creates a local soil amendment, improving the quality of our soil, and traps carbon in the soil so that it doesn't release into our atmosphere.  

Free Organic Waste Drop-Off

A free organic waste drop-off center is being piloted for residents of Aspen to keep food waste out of the landfill and made into compost. To participate in the pilot program, email Ainsley Brosnan-Smith with the subject line “Organics Pilot.” 

Seasonal Collections - Christmas Trees

Naked Christmas trees (trees without decorations or lights) are accepted at the Rio Grande Recycle Center between mid-December and February 14. Collected trees are chipped and composted. No wreaths or garlands are permitted. Holiday lights can be recycled in the "Metals Only" recycle bin. There is no fee to drop-off your naked trees and lights. 

How to Compost

Pick out a compost collection container. 

  • Get creative with the options you have at home. There are a lot of options when it comes to collecting compost. You can use an old ice cream pail, for example.
  • City of Aspen residents may pick up a free countertop compost container at City Hall on the first floor, 427 Rio Grande Place, Aspen.
  • Pitkin County residents may pick up their free 6.5 gallon bucket at the Pitkin County Landfill.
  • Paying customers receive a curbside bucket from their local compost collection provider (contact information below).

Get your organic material to a composting facility.  

What Can I Compost?

Composting Rules, scraps of food non recyclable paper, small plants no plastic no glass no metalThe Pitkin County Landfill has an industrial composting facility that reduces waste by turning food and organic material into rich organic fertilizer. Industrial means that it can process more materials than your garden compost can handle, such as:

  • Scraps of food including fruits, vegetables, meat, bones, and cheese. 
  • Non-recyclable paper including paper towels, napkins, tissues, pizza boxes, and shredded paper. 
  • Small plants including leaves, twigs, and grass clippings. 
  • Materials such as cups, plates, and silverware that are certified "BPI compostable". 

Clean paper and cardboard should go into traditional recycling. Please do not include plastic, glass, or metal in your compost. 

Download a printable resource of materials accepted as compost at the Pitkin County Landfill.

Scraps Compost Collection for Restaurants

Compostable food and paper make up 60-80% of restaurant waste. Reduce your trash hauling costs and environmental footprint by composting food waste. We can help!

  • Onsite evaluation. 
    • Our team of sustainability experts can visit your site and do an assessment of your space for the feasibility of composting. Request an appointment today.
  • Indoor collection containers. 
    • We can provide containers for you to use exclusively for compost inside your establishment. Email us to request containers. 
  • Signage.
    • We can provide instructional signage both in English and Spanish for you to post at your facility. Email us to request signage.
  • Staff training
    • Our team of sustainability experts can provide either in-person or virtual training about composting for your staff. Request an appointment today!  
  • Ongoing support.
    • Our team of environmental experts can provide additional follow-up to training, replace containers, visit your site to re-evaluate your system, and be a liaison between you and community waste haulers. 
  • Free, bear-resistant outdoor containers.

Bear Season

We love our Aspen bears, and they love our food. When composting, follow these guidelines to ensure you're not attracting bears to urban areas by providing an unnatural food source.  

  • Bring it in. Keep compost buckets indoors during bear season (April - October) and only take them out to the curb on the morning of collection day. Do not leave buckets outdoors overnight. *
  • Bag it. Collect compost materials in small bags (paper or compostable) every couple of days, then close the bag and place it inside a sealed bucket. This will help reduce the smell and slow the rate the food products break down.
  • Freeze it. Place meat, cheese, fish, and other ‘stinky’ items in a compostable or paper bag and put them into the freezer. Then, put the frozen material into the collection bucket on the day it will be picked up.
  • Layer it. Place layers of paper products in-between layers of food products to slow down the decomposition and trap odors.
  • Clean it. Giving your compost collection bucket a rinse each week and a wash when it needs it will help to keep it smell-free and unattractive to bears. Spraying cleaning solution or diluted bleach on the lid will also help keep it unattractive.
  • Go vegan. Keep meat and dairy out of the compost collection bucket. This reduces the attraction to bears by reducing odors. Be sure to dispose of these items safely in the regular trash. Bagging and freezing them is still a good idea when you choose to place meat and cheese into the trash instead of the compost during bear season.

*Those who have a secure trash enclosure, can place compost material within a bear-resistant bin secured with metal prior to the day of pick-up. Plastic bins (3, 6, or 22 gallons) need to be kept inside until the day of pick-up. Bins made entirely of plastic have been breached by bears, despite the ‘bear-proof' certification.

Our Race to Zero

The City of Aspen has set science-based targets for community greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 63% by 2030 and 100% (zero carbon) by 2050. Food waste alone contributes to an average of 8% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, releasing more methane into the atmosphere than the CO2 released by airplanes worldwide. By keeping organic material out of the landfill, we can greatly reduce our carbon footprint. 

The City of Aspen oversees programs and initiatives to promote diverting organic material from the landfill. These include our Scraps community compost collection program and upcoming council initiatives. Despite these programs, the Aspen community is only diverting 4% of organic material. The 2015 waste study shows 57% of the landfilled material from homes and businesses was organic material which could have been diverted to compost. 

Diverting food, yard, and other organic material away from the landfill not only reduces our community’s carbon footprint, but also extends the life of the landfill, conserves resources, reduces pollution, and can be locally composted to add nutrition to our local soils. 

That's why the City of Aspen set bold and necessary goals to reduce the amount of organic material buried in the landfill by 25% by 2025 and 100% by 2050.

Solid Waste Ordinance Changes

The Solid Waste portion of the City of Aspen’s Municipal Code (Section 12) currently recognizes the separation of organics from landfill trash and recycling. However, there are no legal requirements for residents, businesses, or haulers to divert organic material from the landfill. Since our current volunteer system is capturing far below diversion potential, Aspen City Council is considering changing the ordinance to ensure organic material is diverted and not buried in the landfill. These changes could require businesses to subscribe to an organic hauling service or could ban food waste from landfill trash by expanding the current ban on yard waste from being disposed of in the landfill. Contact us for more information and to share your thoughts.

Contact Us

We’re here to help! Feel free to contact us with questions and for more information.

contact ainsley
Ainsley Brosnan-Smith 
Waste Reduction & Environmental Health Specialist
Email | Cell: 970-618-9757