Thornton wants to break down your waste

Grant helps spread the word about compost drop-off site

Luke Zarzecki
lzarzecki@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/28/22

Thornton’s environmental services team has a not-so rotten goal: they want to educate residents about composting.

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Thornton wants to break down your waste

Grant helps spread the word about compost drop-off site

Posted

Thornton’s environmental services team has a not-so rotten goal: they want to educate residents about composting.

The City Council approved an intergovernmental agreement on July 26 between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Thornton that provides $58,000 in grant funding from CDPHE to educate and notify citizens about composting. 

The move comes after past efforts by the city to get residents to compost, which didn’t turn out as well as they hoped. Mark Niceley, environmental services manager, blames the lack of notice and knowledge about the program for the lackluster performance.

“We decided to focus on education and getting the word out that we do have a compost drop-off program here to bring all your composting materials free of charge and drop them off,” he said.

Composting efforts

Thornton has offered a limited program for years, allowing residents to drop off compostable materials between May and September but participation has been minimal, Niceley said.

The city began a pilot curbside collection program in 2021. Even though the pilot program was free, only about 15% of residents participated.  According to a survey the city did at the program's end,  only 50% of participants said they would be willing to pay for a composting service. 

That’s a problem because composting is expensive for the city. Niceley said it costs about $98 per ton to dispose of the material. In comparison, Thornton spends at $15 per ton to put solid waste in landfills and $10 per ton to dispose of recycling. 

Another problem is the lack of composting facilities in Colorado. Niceley said the biggest one is in Keenesburg, and collection trucks aren’t built to travel that far. 

Due to that, Niceley said Thornton uses Western Disposal, a private facility in Boulder, to dispose of the material, which costs about $98 per ton. 

What the survey also found was that most of the people did not know about the compost drop-off service the city has, so advertising on the website, social media and other avenues are carrying out the message.

Even with the high prices, the programs continue. Why? Because it’s important. 

“It is the right thing to do for the environment,” Niceley said. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, taking organic waste out of landfills and composting it instead significantly reduces methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. As well, the soil produced by the compost promotes higher yields of agricultural crops, enhances water retention and provides carbon sequestration as well as other environmental benefits. 

 Most of the compost Thornton receives is yard waste, such as grass clippings, sticks and other organic matter, but residents can do more than just that. They can compost food, like banana peels and coffee grounds. 

Niceley said there are sealable containers residents can buy to put the food waste in instead of down their disposal or garbage bin. 

Residents can drop off their compost for free at 12450 Washington St. Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. If residents want to pay for a pick-up compost service, it costs $40 a month. More information is on Thornton’s website. 

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