A1 Organics, which operates THE ONLY permitted large-scale compost manufacturing facility serving the Front Range community in Colorado, is joining other quality-driven compost manufacturing facilities around the country and world in simplifying the materials they accept. 

Compost Guidelines are simple! Two categories ONLY: 

Food Scraps: Produce, bread, bones, meat, cheese, eggshells, coffee grounds (no coffee filters ), etc.

REMOVE ALL produce decals, rubber bands, strings, twist ties, and anything that is NOT food. 

Yard & Plant Trimmings: Leaves, twigs, branches, flowers, grass and yard trimmings.

Place items LOOSE (unbagged) in your compost cart. That’s it!

View and download the latest compost guidelines

If it isn’t food scraps or yard & plant trimmings, it doesn’t go in your curbside compost bin.

Here are some common materials that ARE NO LONGER ALLOWED: 

Paper products, including tissues, paper towels and napkins, tissue paper, brightly colored paper, paper scraps and shredded paper, tea bags, and coffee filters (please dump coffee grounds into compost bin and trash the filter).

Food-soiled or greasy pizza boxes (please compost leftover crusts, throw away the greasy half of the box and recycle the clean half)

All compostable packaging and products, even those that are certified compostable; including cups, utensils, plates and takeout containers. 

Compostable bags and paper yard bags.

All these items now belong in the trash.

More FAQs for Residents and Businesses

A1 Organics is enforcing these new guidelines along the Front Range with all haulers and municipalities they serve due to increased contamination in the materials collected from businesses and residents. Although this material affects only a small percentage—less than 10%—of A1 Organics’ compost products, it is the most challenging percentage in terms of contamination. More than 90% of the organics A1 processes comes from clean sources. A1 Organics is making these changes in an effort to create a high-quality finished compost product from materials generated from municipal collections. Plastic, glass, metals, latex gloves, masks, etc. are mistakenly placed into compost bins and ultimately end up in A1’s finished compost product. Food scraps and yard & plant trimmings make excellent compost, but contaminants like plastic, glass, and metals break down into sharp pieces and/or micro plastics that destroy the compost’s value, leaving A1 with a product they cannot sell because it does not meet their standards for quality, marketable compost for use by farmers and gardeners.

The Front Range community has ONE regional compost manufacturer, A1 Organics, located in Keenesburg, Colorado. A1 has notified ALL communities within the state that are using their services that they are receiving high levels of contamination in the compostables collected from businesses and residents (specifically plastic, glass, metal, and other noncompostable materials). As a result, A1 cannot sell their finished compost product made from community collection programs. They are calling for a cleaner stream of organics (what you put into your  compost cart) and are now accepting food scraps and yard & plant trimmings ONLY. Municipalities and haulers across the state are stepping up to let their customers know: Keep compost clean! Keep it simple with food scraps and yard & plant trimmings only. You can read A1’s notice to haulers and municipalities here.

There are multiple reasons: 

– For every certified-compostable product (such as cutlery, tableware, cups, straws, and compostable bags) you might come across, there are several more “look-alikes” that mislead customers into thinking these items are compostable (using terms like “biodegradable,” or “plant based”) when in truth they often contain noncompostable plastics. 

– Unfortunately, the volume of contamination A1 receives due to misleading labeling makes any packaging or service ware item too costly to accept because of the challenge of distinguishing and sorting certified compostables from “look-alike” products that are not compostable.

– The same is true for paper. Many papers—like coffee cups and many “to go” paper containers—are coated in plastic, leaving microplastics in the compost. 

– Compostable bags often contain and conceal noncompostable contamination. 

– To simplify the stream and ensure there is NO contamination, A1 Organics does not want any packaging, service ware, or paper of ANY kind.

NOTE: Paper that has no plastic coating, like paper towels, facial tissues (that aren’t synthetic), coffee filters, etc. ARE compostable in your backyard compost. Make a valuable soil amendment right in your own backyard. Learn more about backyard composting here, or sign up to attend a Boulder County Compost Workshop.

Compostable serviceware (plates, utensils, bowls, cups) and other products were not commonly used until relatively recently. As their popularity has grown, they have spurred a rush of “look-alike” and misrepresented products in the marketplace. While compostable bags and food serviceware can be useful vehicles for delivering valuable food scraps, the task of identifying what is legitimately compostable is impossible, even for experts, creating unmanageable amounts of contamination.

Compostable bags frequently conceal noncompostable contamination. As A1 breaks open these bags, they very often find that the contents are not compostable. To ensure that we avoid accepting contamination from the source (businesses and residents), haulers need to check carts and dumpsters before loading them onto the trucks, and they cannot see contamination if it is bagged. Similarly, upon arrival at A1 where loads will be inspected for contamination, A1 inspectors cannot see contamination if it is bagged. The ONE exception to the rule of NO compostable bags will be the 3-gallon-or-less kitchen countertop CMA certified compostable bags for FOOD SCRAPS ONLY. Brown Kraft yard bags will be accepted during seasonal yard debris collection programs (spring and fall) ONLY. During these special collection events, the brown kraft bags will be accepted OUTSIDE your cart only; they will NOT be allowed inside your cart.

NOTE: If you are a residential curbside compost customer with Western Disposal, you can continue to use brown paper lawn bags to contain yard trimmings. Place the bag alongside your curbside compost cart—DO NOT use paper bags to hold materials inside your cart or as a compost cart liner. The paper yard bags themselves will not be composted, in accordance with new compost guidelines set by our region’s commercial compost manufacturer, A1 Organics. Instead, the contents of paper yard bags set outside of your curbside cart will be emptied upon arrival at Western Disposal’s transfer station—with the bags set aside for reuse. Please be aware that this accommodation of kraft yard bags is for Western Disposal residential customers only as Western Disposal manages their own organics transfer before transporting to A1 Organics.

Save money and go bag-free! You don’t need to bag your recycled organic materials (aka compost). In your indoor compost container, go bag-free and simply rinse out your container. Put your food scraps and plant & yard trimmings loose in your cart. If it’s stinky, give it a quick rinse from the hose (do NOT include soap that will create residue in wastewater), swish it around in the cart, and pour the water directly onto your lawn or trees. Protect our waterways by not dumping wash water with food and soap residue into the street—storm drains in our community lead directly to local creeks. If you have fallen leaves, you can line your curbside compost bin with a thin layer of leaves to help absorb moisture.

Note that there are two exceptions to the “no bag” rule: You ARE allowed to use the small, 3-gallon-or-less CMA certified countertop compostable bags. The brown kraft lawn bags will NOT be accepted throughout the year, but they WILL be accepted during spring and fall curbside collection events, announced by your hauler or municipality.

Compost loads will be rejected by A1 and sent to the landfill at the expense of the hauler, increasing methane emissions at your local landfill. For this reason, haulers will not be picking up any compost loads they deem too contaminated to pass inspection at A1.

The organics recycling steam (aka compost) is not the same as the recycling stream. At a recycling plant, human sorters see contaminants like plastic bags and pull them off the sorting line by hand. Automatic equipment such as screens and optical sorters help separate materials. In comparison, by the time compostable materials arrive at a compost plant, they are already a gooey mess. Imagine pulling plastic stickers off of rotten banana peels, or even pulling plastic bags off of decaying material. A certain degree of contamination in sorted recycled products is allowable with recycling markets. Compost is not so lenient. Small pieces of plastic, glass, or aluminum will remain in the finished compost product. Farmers and other compost buyers need the clean, nutrient-dense food scraps and yard trimmings. But they don’t want to grow our food using compost contaminated with glass, plastic, and metals. 

A1 is not the only compost manufacturer making these changes. Some other programs in early adopter compost communities such as Portland, Vermont, and California have simplified their guidelines to include food scraps and yard & plant trimmings ONLY as use of finished compost by agriculture and contamination produced by non-compostable materials increase.

NO. Beginning April 1, 2023, A1 has notified us that the inclusion of paper, compostable products, and non-compostables will result in a rejection of the load and it will instead be sent to the landfill. Please do NOT include any paper (not even coffee filters or greasy pizza boxes), and no compostable products, even if they are labeled as certified compostable. 


1. Know before you throw. Become a Zero Waste sorting pro. Check local recycling guidelines to see if your to-go container is recyclable. DO NOT recycle “compostable” to-go containers.

2. Use reusables whenever possible. The switch to reusable shopping bags has become the norm. Keep the reuse habit going—bring your reusable mug to a coffee shop, stash a reusable set of silverware and a napkin in your bag or car for easy access on the go, and bring your own reusable to-go containers for leftovers.

3. Support reuse businesses: Have your take-out coffee packed in a reusable/returnable mug from r.Cup, and your to-go meal packed in  Dispatch Goods or  DeliverZero reusable containers when ordering from participating restaurants. Reuse service companies are on the rise, with more companies no doubt coming online soon, so encourage your favorite restaurant to join a reuse program to help switch the default away from single-use disposables of any kind, regardless of whether they are recyclable, compostable, or landfill. 

That is to be determined. A1 is a private, for-profit company: the compostables they receive from businesses, restaurants, schools, institutions, and residents is only a very small portion of their business—and it is the most problematic portion because it has so many contaminants in it. A1 is NOT contracted or otherwise obligated to take the materials we have been generating. As community partners, A1 wants to work with haulers and municipalities along the Front Range to continue to accept material, but they need our help to ensure that it is substantially cleaner. At this time, there is no other compost processor in the Front Range region. So the answer is it is still unclear whether and when guidelines will change, but A1 states that they are committed to finding the best solution for Colorado and will continue to work with our community to solve these contamination issues.

While we cannot predict their future standards, we do know that the goal of producing quality compost, and the health of the planet, is best served by focusing on diverting food and yard waste while reducing the use of disposable single-use products (regardless of whether they are compostable or recyclable), by employing and prioritizing solutions around reducing and reusing first.   

Because compost is so essential for building healthy soils and is a critical climate solution, creating policies and infrastructure that support the success of compost are becoming key priorities on the state and municipal levels.

New policies are being introduced: 

A new Organics Waste Diversion bill will direct the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to study and make recommendations about banning food and yard trimmings from the landfill and building the infrastructure needed to divert these materials into better uses like compost (this was one of CDPHE’s recommendations from the newly released Statewide Organics Management Plan). 

A Truth in Labeling bill would require all disposable food service products like cups, utensils, and take-out containers to be certified compostable and labeled as such, or not to contain any labeling that implies greenwashing, like “biodegradable,” or “plant-based,” or “green.” This is to help clean up the contamination from these noncompostable products in our compost stream.

New infrastructure is being researched and proposed: 

– Different stakeholders are looking at funding and implementing different infrastructure solutions ranging from prescreening at compost transfer locations to building additional compost infrastructure at other locations.

– Eco-Cycle and other stakeholders are working to create decentralized compost systems for on-farm composting, as well as smaller compost systems that could work for large generators like universities or small communities.

– Communities are looking at supporting restaurants and other businesses with piloted reuse infrastructure to replace the use of compostables, recyclables, and disposables.

FAQs for Businesses

Any load of compost arriving at A1 Organics that is found to include contaminants will be rejected and rerouted to the landfill. Rejected loads will incur both penalties and landfill disposal costs. For specific information about how your hauler will monitor contamination and assess penalties, please reach out to your hauler.

Unsure who your hauler is? Take a look at your bins for your service provider or ask your property management company. 

Continue to use your compostable products and instruct customers or employees to landfill these products when they are through using them. We understand that this contradicts your intention and prior guidance, but current conditions demand that they be directed to landfill. If you have unopened cases of compostable serviceware, you may be able to return them to the vendor who sold them to you.

In instances of shared receptacles, your hauler can provide guidance as to how they will address contamination. You may consider requesting individual services from your property manager or hauler. 

Reach out to your property manager or waste hauler to request a locking bar or locking lid for your compost container and ask for additional resources (e.g., signage etc.)

NO. Compostable products are NOT recyclable. Please do NOT put them in the recycling bin where they will have to be removed from the stream and landfilled at an expense to the operator of your local recycling facility. 

If you have dishwashing facilities, go for reuse! 

Stock your break room with reusable mugs, plates, forks, spoons, etc. Tight budget? Thrift stores are FULL of reusable cutlery and tableware. 

No dishwasher? Create a reuse culture in your workplace and encourage employees to pack their own reusables in and out for lunch breaks. 

Prioritize using containers that CAN be recycled after they have been rinsed, such as foil to-go ware, aluminum foil, or plastic clamshell containers as a last resort. Be sure to check your local recycler’s guidelines to see which to-go containers are truly recyclable in your area! In addition, provide disposables by request ONLY. If your business operates an online ordering platform, create an “opt in” checkbox on your website for customers to choose to receive materials such as straws, napkins, utensils, etc.  

Reach out to a local reusable to-go ware service like r.Cup,  Dispatch Goods, or  DeliverZero.

Remove compost collection bins from public spaces. 

Put up new “Compostable products belong in the trash” signs above waste bins (landfill and recycling) in customer spaces.

Post new “food only” signs on kitchen or behind the bar compost bins. 

Communicate these changes to your staff regularly and include these rules on all new employee orientations.

Use smaller containers to collect food scraps that kitchen and janitorial staff can lift into toters and dumpsters without the use of a bag/liner. 

Line compost containers with bags (either plastic or compostable) and have staff remove bags after dumping contents loose into the dumpster or toters. Landfill bag after use. 

Keep your bins out of direct sunlight to avoid maggots and baking the food onto the container. 

Toter washing services are available in the area and include Clean Can Now, Green Can CleanerClean Can Co, and others. Your hauler may also have container washing services available. 

Increase service frequency so food will not have a chance to sit as long in the bin. 

Yes! All restaurants generate considerable amounts of food waste. To eliminate contamination, however, the only sure way to divert food scraps from the landfill in restaurant settings is to have kitchen staff sort food scraps in food prep areas and bussing staff sort food scraps from customer tables. Because confusion among customers can be so high, it is not recommended that customers be part of diverting food scraps into compost bins. 

Please connect with Eco-Cycle on social media and through our monthly newsletter so you can stay up to date, as A1’s standards may continue to evolve. Our staff is ready to assist you as we make this transition. Please contact our experts at [email protected] or 303-444-6634, extension 109 with questions.