How To Get There > Recycling Policies > Universal Recycling: Boulder, Colorado, USA

Universal Recycling: Boulder, Colorado, USA

Boulder, Colorado

All households receive recycling and composting collection as part of their basic trash service. Multi-family properties receive unlimited recycling.

Action(s) Taken

  • Recycling Policies



Overview of Recycling Requirements

Residential Recycling and Composting:

Haulers providing trash service in the city of Boulder must provide residential households with unlimited recycling and a minimum level of compost collection as part of their base rate of service. Compost service is defined as a 32-gallon container, three paper bags of leaves and three bundles of branches not larger than three feet by six feet. Meat and dairy products were excluded from curbside composting due to concerns they would attract wildlife, particularly bears.

Haulers must charge customers for trash service based on pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) pricing. This means haulers create a base rate of service that includes recycling and composting at no additional charge and no more than a 32-gallon trash container collected weekly. Customers pay more for additional trash bins, and haulers may charge a flat fee in addition the base rate of service. Additional compost collection cannot cost more than 75% of the trash service rate.

Residential diversion in Boulder was 47% in 2009 and 17% for multi-family properties.

Multi-Family Dwelling Recycling:

Haulers providing trash collection service to multi-family dwelling customers must provide unlimited recycling services at no additional charge. In the future, the city manager may require haulers to collect compostable items from multi-family customers in addition to recycling and trash.

Haulers must also provide multi-family properties with recycling containers at no charge, and the containers must be at least half of the volume of the property’s trash service.


In 2001, Boulder implemented a PAYT pricing structure for trash and required haulers to provide unlimited recycling to residents. Within the first year of adopting PAYT, Boulder went from 70% of households disposing of two or more containers of trash to the vast majority disposing of 32-gallons or less. This increased city-wide residential recycling from 17% to 34% in the first year.

In 2008, the ordinance was updated to include composting for residents and recycling requirements for multi-family units. In requiring year-round composting collection, the city was able to save money by ending its spring cleanup program. The recycling program switched from a two-cart program for commingled containers and mixed paper to a single-stream system when the composting program rolled out.

The ordinance also amended the city’s trash tax, a fee paid by all properties receiving trash service in order to fund waste reduction activities. The 2013 trash tax rates are at the voter-approved maximum level of $3.50 per month for households and $0.85 per cubic yard of trash for businesses and multi-family units that use centralized dumpsters or roll-off containers.

Implementation and Enforcement

There is an open market collection system for both residents and multi-family properties, meaning customers can contract with any licensed hauler for services.

The policy requires the haulers to provide services, but does not require residents to participate. Haulers must also submit an annual report to the city with the tons of trash, recyclables and compostables collected by commodity within the city.

Recyclable materials collected are assumed to go the county-owned recycling center unless otherwise designated in writing by the customer.


The city provided educational brochures about the program to the haulers to distribute to customers when the regulation took effect. They will do this again whenever there are changes to the waste reduction programs.


Boulder, CO Recycling Guidelines

City of Boulder Master Plan for Waste Reduction, 2006

City of Boulder Zero Waste Strategic Plan (draft)

More Information

Zero Waste in Boulder, CO

Composting program gets Boulder homes halfway to Zero Waste

Curbside composting stalls over bear concerns

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