Denver proposes expansion of its residential waste services to increase diversion rate by 50% or more, reduce methane emissions, provide weekly recycling, composting for all customers; city would pay for expansion with new fee based on trash cart size

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DENVER , April 18, 2022 (press release) –

The City and County of Denver is exploring an expansion to residential waste services that would provide weekly recycling and composting for all customers. To cover the costs of these services, including labor and regular equipment replacement, Denver is proposing a fee based on the trash cart size that residents would select.

Where We Are Now

The City and County of Denver services about 180,000 households — specifically, single-family homes and multifamily buildings with seven or fewer units — approximately two-thirds of Denver residences. Large multifamily buildings and all other buildings in Denver contract with private providers for their waste hauling.

The city currently provides recycling every two weeks, and residents have been requesting weekly recycling for several years. Denver also currently charges for composting, which discourages many from adopting the practice of composting their food scraps and yard waste rather than sending it to the landfill.

With an expansion of recycling and compost collection services, the City and County of Denver is looking to increase our recycling and composting rate, sending less of our waste to the landfill. Denver’s current rate is 26%, well below the national average of 34%. The more waste that ends up in the landfill, the more methane that is produced as that material decays over decades. The production of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, hampers Denver from reaching its climate action goals, which residents have asked the city to rapidly advance.

Where We Want To Go

  • Offer customers weekly recycling and composting.
  • Cover the cost of expanded collection services by charging a fee based on trash cart size.
  • Offer customers a choice in the size of their trash cart and monthly payment.
  • Encourage customers to put more waste in their recycling and compost carts and reduce what they put in their trash cart.
  • Increase Denver’s waste diversion rate to 50% or more.
  • Reduce methane emissions and act on climate change.

How To Get There

In looking at other major cities across the nation, it’s clear that charging a fee for trash based on volume, and providing recycling and composting at no additional charge, works to meet the goals of reducing our landfill waste, addressing climate change, and creating better waste habits.

Many cities have recycling and composting participation rates(PNG, 181KB) that are two or three times higher than Denver’s, and each charge a fee. The proposed fee structure is lower than any other municipality in the Denver metro area: $9 for a small trash cart, $13 for a medium trash cart, and $21 for a large trash cart. An affordability index, a sliding scale based on income and household size, would instantly rebate up to 100% of the cost for residents who may be disproportionately burdened by a fee. Denver would be the only city in the nation to offer such a robust discount program for waste services.

Here's What We've Learned So Far

Residents want weekly recycling.

  • The city has heard residents loud and clear for years and is eager to expand recycling.

Residents are optimistic about composting, but would like education.

  • Composting is much more than just eggshells and coffee grounds, it also includes meat, bones, and yard debris. Denver is looking at the best ways to deliver education and outreach so residents are successful with composting.

Many residents see the value in the fee for the expanded services, but some are concerned about it.

  • The city is prohibited by state law from making a profit from waste collection fees. The fee can only cover the cost of service. The amount of money that would be freed from the General Fund has yet to be determined, as program start-up costs (trucks, carts, labor) and the affordability rebates will be covered by the General Fund. However, once the program has been implemented and is stable, the city will have a public conversation about how to reallocate this funding.

Many residents are eager to advance climate action.

  • In looking at other cities that are charging a fee, we are confident we can reach 50% diversion or more – reducing methane emissions and creating a better, safer city.

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