BY FREDA MIKLIN
At its study session on January 9, the Greenwood Village City Council unanimously decided not to provide composting services to its residents.
It was six months ago when Julia Pace, then a 5th grader, told her city council that, “I love the environment. I’ve lived in Greenwood Village my whole life. I’m here tonight to collaborate with you to bring composting to the Greenwood Village community…” After sharing that, “According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group…Americans land-filled or incinerated over 15,000,000 tons of compostable waste in 2015,” Julia told the city council how she was able to personally get 50 families in her GV neighborhood to sign up and begin composting just by explaining how it works and its benefits. After pointing to the city’s robust financial reserves, she said, “As a resident of Greenwood Village, I am requesting a Call to Action.”
Asked to investigate the issue, GV Public Works Director Jeremy Hanak reported to the city council on January 9 that two companies, Wompost and Compost Colorado, currently service GV and that they charge $33-$47/month to individual households to pick up compostable items like food scraps, yard waste, and coffee grounds weekly. The service also includes customers receiving a delivery of usable compost for their lawns or gardens periodically.
Hanak presented four options for the city council to consider:
GV provides composting services to the 4,600 households who currently receive its trash and recycling services (all residents who live in single family homes, whether they rent or own, and some, but not all owners of condos and townhomes);
GV provides composting services to eligible households that request it;
GV identifies a preferred provider, including negotiating a discount, and residents who use that provider pay them directly;
GV merely provides information about composting through public events.
After much discussion, the city council chose option four.
That discussion included a question from Council Member Dave Bullock about what it would cost annually for the city to provide composting services to all eligible households. Hanak estimated that amount at around $800,000.
Council Member Anne Ingebretsen confirmed that GV could use the money it collects from the plastic and paper bag fees that GV businesses are now required to charge all customers to help pay for composting services.
The city attorney noted that GV will receive 60% of all money collected for bags within its boundaries. However, that money is only required to be remitted to cities quarterly, beginning April 1, 2024. Examples of GV stores that are obligated to collect a minimum of 10 cents per bag provided, effective January 1, 2023, are King Soopers (at two locations), Home Depot, PGA Golf Superstore, and Target.
When Ingebretsen inquired about the level of interest in composting by GV residents, City Manager John Jackson responded that he could not provide an answer because nothing had been done to determine the level of interest.
Council Member Johnston, a longtime user of composting services at her home, said that, wherever she goes, people ask her about it. She observed that composting would certainly reduce the amount of trash that needed to be picked up every week, but said, “It requires a lot of education… at least for Greenwood Village, (because) I don’t think people understand it (composting).” She also questioned how much people in GV use the recycling services provided by the city.
Hanak cited a statewide database that ranks cities by how much they recycle, noting that GV is “consistently in the top 10 to 15 in the state,” with “21% to 23% of GV’s waste diverted to recycling.” He attributed that to the fact that the city council pays for recycling services, including providing full-size bins to collect it.
Libby Barnacle, who represents GV district three, said that people needed to be educated more on the subject, and, “I don’t want to be, necessarily, the testing dummy for compost.”
Mayor Lantz suggested that GV “could continue to monitor” composting activities in other cities.
Ingebretsen noted that, “If we provided the service to our residents, that would make it that much more appealing.” She asked that GV keep track of its revenue from plastic and paper bag fees, since it could be used to provide this service “at some point in the future.”
Julia Lace, now a sixth grader, attended the meeting with her father. Members of the public are not permitted to speak at GV study sessions, according to a rule imposed by the city council. After the discussion ended, we asked Julia what she thought about what she heard. Ever positive, she smiled at her dad and said she knew it took a long time for government to do things.
According to its 2023 Operating and Capital Improvement Budget, GV’s total fund balance (money in the bank not being used for operating expenses) as of January 1, 2023 was $54.1 million.