Organic Waste Diversion & Scraps Compost Collection

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. 

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Our Race to Zero

The City of Aspen is committed to reducing its overall greenhouse gas emissions by 80% 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 37% of the landfilled material from homes and businesses was organic material which could have been diverted to compost. 

Share Your Thoughts

The City of Aspen is currently exploring methods to increase the amount of organic material diverted from the landfill by:

  • Engaging the restaurant community in dialogue about how to make that happen.
  • Collecting ideas from the Aspen community.
  • Researching best practices from cities that have succeeded in increasing organics diversion.
  • Discussing this with our partners at the Pitkin County Solid Waste Center and local organic waste haulers.

We want to hear from you about your waste diversion practices and opinions. Learn more and provide your thoughts through a survey about this upcoming initiative on Aspen Community Voice.

click here to take our survey Opens in new window

Let’s Talk About Food Waste in Aspen – A Virtual Event

December 16, 2021 | 2-3 p.m.

Aspen is taking a stand on climate change by working towards diverting more commercial organic material (food waste) away from the landfill. And, we are exploring how to make positive changes to our current restaurants' disposal habits.

Learn from local restaurant owners and waste experts about how it works, new requirements, the collection process, and costs. This event will take place virtually via Zoom. 

Join the conversation. RSVP today. 

click here to RSVP

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. We are asking the community about what legal approach is most practical and desirable to achieve a higher organics diversion rate.

Scraps Composting Program

The Scraps composting 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.  

How to Compost

  1. 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 make arrangements to pick up a free 6.5-gallon bucket on the 2nd floor of the Old Powerhouse Building at 590 N. Mill Street via email or calling 970-920-5039.
    • Pitkin County residents may pick up their free bucket at the Pitkin County Landfill.
    • Paying customers may ask their local compost collection provider to drop off a bucket.
  2. Figure out how to get your organic material to a composting facility.  
  3. Start Collecting your Compost

What Can I Compost?

aerial photo of the Pitkin County Landfill The 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.

Contact Us

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

Liz Chapman

Liz O’Connell Chapman, Ph.D.
Senior Waste Reduction & Environmental Health Specialist
Email | Cell: 970-319-6890 | Office: 970-429-1831

Ainsley Brosnan-Smith
Ainsley Brosnan-Smith 
Waste Reduction & Environmental Health Specialist
Email | Cell: 970-618-9757 | Office: 907-429-1831