City Council Passes Expanded Waste Collection Services Ordinance

Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) and Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency (CASR) received City Council approval to expand residential recycling and compost collection services to reduce the amount of trash Denver sends to the landfill and the production of harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

The ordinance, which becomes effective in 2023, will result in weekly recycling and compost collection for City and County of Denver trash collection customers (currently, recycling is picked up every other week and compost is collected for a fee for people who subscribe).  The ordinance changes Denver’s system of charging for compost collection, replacing it with a fee for trash that incentivizes recycling and composting by charging based on the size of a customer’s trash cart and quantity of waste sent to the landfill.  Waste in the landfill decomposes and generates methane — a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and climate change.

“Tonight’s vote represents more than a decade of planning and realizes an important step forward in Denver’s fight to address climate change and to protect our environment,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “I’m grateful to Council members Clark and Kniech for their partnership, to my administration for preparing this important expansion of recycling and composting, and to the people of Denver for their commitment to making Denver an environmental leader.”

“Bold action on climate change cannot wait, and tonight we took an important step to make sure that we are doing everything we can to combat this challenge as a City,” said Denver District 7 Councilman Jolon Clark.

“Whether it’s extreme heat or poor air quality in the city or loss of snow pack in our beloved mountains, the urgency of climate change is on Denver’s doorstep and the responsible path is taking every action we can to reverse any impacts we can,” exclaimed At-large Councilwoman Robin Kniech. “Today’s vote paves the way for aligning our actions with our values: ending subsidies for throwing methane-producing trash in the landfill and centering our new recycling- and composting-first approach in equity with rebates for low- and moderate-income families.”  

Denver’s expanded services fee structure is lower than any other municipality in the metro area at $9 per month for a small trash cart, $13 per month for a medium trash cart, and $21 per month for a large trash cart. Denver will also offer an instant rebate program for low-income residents who may be disproportionately burdened by a fee; the rebate could cover up to 100% of the new fee.  The expanded collections ordinance also ends the practice of having the general fund subsidize trash collection services for only some Denver residents, directly charging residents who receive the services.

“More than a decade ago, we worked with our community and established a vision to manage waste in Denver more responsibly to enhance quality of life in our city and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Adam Phipps, Executive Director of Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. “We thank Denver City Council for moving this proposal forward to increase our diversion of trash from the landfill and protect our environment and we’re excited to increase customer participation in composting fivefold, going from 30,000 to 180,000 compost customers by the end of 2023.”

Prior to 2023, DOTI will provide customers information about the upcoming service expansions, start dates, and how to recycle and compost.  Weekly recycling service will begin in January 2023, with billing to be phased in during the first quarter of 2023, and composting service to be rolled out citywide over the course of the year. Customers will pay a reduced billing rate until their compost service starts and have an opportunity to downsize their trash carts after their composting service starts. Customers will also find information about the service expansions on the city’s website.

Denver’s composting program collects items such as food scraps, yard debris, weeds and non-recyclable paper and sends them to a facility that turns them into compost, a soil amendment that can be used to make yards and gardens more resilient to the effects of climate change.

“Tonight’s vote is a commitment to our city’s climate goals,” said Grace Rink, chief climate officer. “As we divert more waste away from the landfill, we’ll both lower our emissions and create more soil-friendly compost.”