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Boulder, Colo., Releases Circular Economy Report

Boulder, Colo., Releases Circular Economy Report

Boulder’s Climate Mobilization Action Plan portrays a holistic picture of materials being consumed, transformed and wasted throughout the city.

In order for Boulder, Colo., to meet its ambitious zero waste goals, the city says urgent action is required in the coming years.

As part of its Climate Mobilization Action Plan (CMAP), the city worked with sustainability consultant Metabolic, LLC, to develop a holistic picture of materials being consumed, transformed and wasted in Boulder. This study has helped the city more deeply understand the current material flows, identify opportunities for creating less waste and find more ways to close the recycling loop locally. The report and the vision it lays out draws on feedback from stakeholder and community input.

“This report is one of the first steps in broadening the city’s focus from how we manage waste to how we manage materials. Boulder is a leader in waste reduction, however, in order to really address the climate crisis, the city needs to lead the way in implementing deep, systemic change through coordinated action to foster a circular economy,” said Kara Mertz, sustainability manager, in a statement.

One main takeaway of the report is that while waste is a small part of the city’s greenhouse gas inventory as currently measured, when looking at all the materials and product consumption rather than just waste, emissions from that consumption are larger than all local sources of emissions put together. That means that even a small change in the amount of “stuff” used can have an enormous effect on overall carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report found that the largest contributors to these so-called “embodied” emissions are electronics, clothing and textiles and that packaging materials make up 28 percent of the city’s waste. The consultants made special note that the city will need to find new ways to measure its progress in creating a more circular Boulder.

As part of CMAP, the city will continue to engage the community throughout 2020 to prioritize actions and mobilize climate action.

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