Thursday, 8 Dec 2022

Denver Initiated Ordinance 306: Recycling mandates for apartment buildings, venues, events passing

Denver voters on Tuesday were endorsing new rules mandating that large apartment buildings, restaurants and a broad range of other commercial businesses be required to recycle or compost as much waste as possible, according to early Election Night results.

In initial results released just after 7 p.m. Tuesday, the measure was passing with 66.7% of the vote compared to 33.3% of coming in votes against it. Roughly 103,000 of returned ballots had been counted, according to the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office. That’s fewer than 25% of the total votes cast meaning results could still change.

Denver Initiated Ordinance 306, dubbed Waste No More Denver by supporters, asked voters to approve wide-ranging waste diversion rules for industries ranging from food trucks and special events to construction and demolition.

“We’re feeling really good,” Ean Thomas Tafoya, the ordinance’s lead architect and a Denver mayoral candidate in 2023, said after the first batch of results was released. “I think this shows us what we have known for a very long time: Denver voters want climate action now.

“I hope this sends a message to our elected leaders that they should be delivering on these policies instead of making us go out and collect signatures,” to get on the ballot, Tafoya added.

Waste No More Denver would cover all apartment and condo buildings over eight units, businesses that create food waste like restaurants, hospitals, sports venues and food trucks, and require construction and demolition projects to salvage and recycle materials ranging from cardboard to scrap metal. Commercial spaces that don’t create food waste would have to provide recycling services to tenants and employees. Special events like the A Taste of Colorado or the Underground Music Showcase would be required to come up with waste diversion plans for city review.

The city would not be required to provide trash hauling services for commercial contributors, but the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure would be tasked with creating complete rules including setting fines and penalties for violators, per the ballot language. The city would also review annual waste plans from the new class of mandated recyclers and composters. All businesses would have to provide education on what type of waste goes where on their premises or at their events.

Opponents of the measure argued in the city’s voter information booklet that Denver was not equipped to oversee such a large increase in its waste disposal oversight responsibilities even if the city itself is not responsible for collecting the waste. Requirements like having to notify the city every time a business changes trash haulers would be onerous for the businesses and the city alike.

Proponents argue that the city’s climate action aims demand that commercial businesses and the construction industry do their part when it comes to diverting waste from landfills. Those two segments combined to produce 82% of the refuse generated in the city in 2020. They also diverted recyclable and compostable material at higher rates than single-family homes and small apartment buildings, according to city statistics.

The city’s analysis estimates that the enforcement mechanisms of the measure could cost as much as $2.3 million to implement and $1.9 million to run each year if properties are being inspected annually.

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