Boulder circular economy report lays out new opportunities for climate action

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The City of Boulder has ambitious 2050 targets for both waste and greenhouse gas reduction. A new report developed with the city explores how a circular economy can help them get there.

To meet Boulder’s ambitious zero waste goals, urgent action is required in the coming years. As part of the city’s Climate Mobilization Action Plan, the city worked with Metabolic to develop a holistic picture of all the materials being consumed, transformed and wasted in Boulder. Mapping these “material flows” allows the city to better identify opportunities for creating less waste, and find more ways to close resource loops locally. The report and the vision it lays out also draws on feedback from stakeholder and community input via public co-creation sessions.

“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, City of Boulder’s sustainability manager.

The report examines the impacts of Boulder’s waste production, but also examines the materials and emissions associated with imports. This approach allows a city to more accurately assess its true environmental impacts, by including products which have been produced externally, but produced for the city’s population and consumed within the city. The emissions “embodied” in such products are in fact larger than all local sources of emissions put together. That means that even a small change in the amount of “stuff” the city of Boulder imports and uses can have an enormous effect on overall carbon emissions. 

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

The city will continue to engage the community throughout 2020 to prioritize actions and mobilize climate action. It will also continue to ensure that the process is community-focused, with equity and resilience at the forefront.

To learn more:

Media contacts:

  • City of Boulder: Alexis Bullen, Communications: 303-441-1878 / Kara Mertz, Climate Initiatives: 303-441-3153 
  • Metabolic: Kate Black, Communications: +31 20 369 0977

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