CU-Boulder reaches largest landfill diversion rate in 2012-13

April 23, 2014 •

The University of Colorado Boulder diverted 2,458 tons, or nearly 44 percent, of waste from landfills during the 2012-13 school year -- its highest rate ever.

The savings -- reached through recycling, composting and reusing materials -- are equivalent to removing the emissions of 1,370 passenger cars over one year, conserving 12,276 barrels of oil, or eliminating the annual carbon emissions of 634 households.

It also marks the height of a 10-year increase in waste diversion even while the campus’s square footage grew by 25 percent during the same period.

“Without buy-in from students, faculty, staff, visitors and vendors who care about the environment, we wouldn’t be celebrating this success,” said Jack DeBell, CU-Boulder recycling development director. “When it comes right down to it, it’s all about the CU-Boulder community -- person by person and pound by pound -- pitching in to reduce waste, lower costs and provide a positive impact.”

Improvements such as pairing all outdoor trash bins with recycling bins helped result in a 140-ton increase in dump diversion in 2013 from the previous year. Compost bins for paper towels also have been placed in many of the restrooms across campus.  

About 50 students are employed by CU-Boulder’s recycling program each semester. The program -- started by students in 1976 -- collects, sorts, upgrades and consolidates recyclables including difficult-to-process materials like plastic films, Styrofoam, disks, shredded paper and textbooks. It also facilitates a number of zero-waste events on campus from football and basketball games to the annual Global Jam, which is a trashcan-free international picnic to welcome about 6,000 new students to campus.

The recycling processing center, currently housed north of Folsom Field, will temporarily be located in a parking lot southeast of the Coors Events Center this summer. Groundbreaking for a new recycling processing center is slated for July.

The campus has a goal of reaching a 90 percent landfill diversion rate by 2020.

“Doubling CU-Boulder’s current efforts is operationally feasible and will require bold initiatives from the institutional level to the individual,” said DeBell.

CU-Boulder’s recycling program operates as a partnership of the CU Environmental Center, Facilities Management and Housing and Dining Services.

For more information call 303-492-8307 or visit

Jack DeBell, 303-492-8733
Nicole Gordon, Facilities Management, 303-492-8687
Elizabeth Lock, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-3117