Inventory Case 4: City of Ft. Collins, Colorado (inventory)

Responsible Party
City of Ft. Collins, Colorado
Case Study Year
City Involved
Ft Collins
State Involved
Country Involved
United States
Case Study Type
Inventory Tool
  1. Who did it: City of Ft. Collins, Colorado
  2. What they did (and when): In early 2009, the City commissioned an independent review of its inventory and inventory methodology. See page 53 of this review for a short and clearly-written discussion of "upstream impacts of key materials". The consultant and City used waste composition data to identify that roughly 40% of what is disposed of from the community are materials that are targeted in the Climate Action Plan for recycling or composting. Reverse-engineering WARM's emissions factors for these materials and multiplying them by tons disposed generated an estimate of greenhouse gas emissions associated with "recyclable materials". See page 16 of the City's inventory report for detailed methodology. (Note 1: This is somewhat similar to what Oregon did in 2004, except Ft. Collins limited the analysis to only certain potentially recoverable materials, whereas Oregon evaluated the whole waste stream.)Collins included upstream manufacturing/resource extraction production and energy emissions, as well as "forest land use" emissions, using emissions factors from EPA. –However, EPA's emissions factors for forest carbon are based on marginal changes in paper consumption/production, while the energy emissions are based on industry averages, not margins.  Click here for another potential limitation of this approach.)
  3. Why they did it: The report states "there are a number of materials for which upstream benefits of diversion are claimed in the CAP but the upstream emissions are not included in the community inventory. This inconsistency arises from the historical approach of ICLEI's CACP and impacts materials including cardboard, wood, carpet, paper, aluminum, organics, and others" (CACP was an early inventory tool).  Section 3.4.5 of the consultant's report evaluates 13 "possible emissions sources" excluded from the City's inventory and concludes that 3 of these are of "medium significance". One of these 3 is the "upstream emissions of key urban materials". The report states "the work of the Climate Task Force revealed that some of the greatest opportunities for emissions reduction lie in the solid waste sector and the upstream emissions associated with the extraction and manufacture of materials . . . this historical practice has been to account for these reductions (outside the inventory) . .. However, as the Climate Task Force work revealed, this creates an incongruity at the climate action plan level when measures claim reduction on upstream emissions that are not included in the inventory . . ." The report also states "The two big issues to consider in determining whether to include these emission sources are the potential impact on the accuracy of the inventory if they are excluded and the desire to pursue mitigation opportunities in these areas. In order to reasonably include reductions in these areas toward the community's climate goals, the emissions from these sources need to be included in the inventory."  An alternative approach would be that included in ICLEI’s newer Community Protocol for Accounting and Reporting of GHG Emissions (2012) and Recycling and Composting Emissions Protocol (2013). ICLEI’s Recycling and Composting Emissions Protocol provides separate methods for estimating emissions (including reductions) resulting from recycling of two different types of materials: any materials, or just those materials whose emissions and reductions are not already included in the community inventory. While ICLEI holds that off-inventory emissions reductions are not to be subtracted from gross community emissions (to calculate “net emissions”), they can be reported alongside them as an informational item.
  4. Results/outcomes/successes/failures/lessons learned: Including the upstream emissions for the materials disposed of that are targeted for recovery would increase the City's 2007 inventory by 13%. In future years, the City may to repeat this methodology, multiplying total quantities of waste disposed against waste composition data. Changes in waste disposal (totals and materials-specific amounts) will drive changes in the inventory. It should be noted that these changes (in waste disposal) could result from a variety of factors, including increased recycling, but also waste prevention, and other changes such as demographic and economic changes.