Expanded Waste Collection Services

Photo of Denver trash and recycling carts with a sign above them reading SWM Thanks

Volume-Based Pricing to begin in 2023

Beginning in 2023, Denver will 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. Waste in the landfill decomposes and generates methane — a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and climate change.

DOTI will begin directly billing customers for residential waste services based on trash cart size. The smaller the trash cart, the lower the fee. Weekly recycling and weekly composting services are included at no extra charge. This applies to Denver Solid Waste Management customers (single family homes and apartments up to 7 units).

Fees

  • $9 per month for small trash cart + recycling + compost
  • $13 per month for medium trash cart + recycling + compost
  • $21 per month for large trash cart + recycling + compost

Services

  • Weekly trash, recycling and compost collection service for all customers
  • Monthly large item pickup
  • Cherry Creek Recycling Dropoff
  • seasonal programs including LeafDrop, Treecycle, Mulch Giveaway, Recycle Your Holiday Lights and others

Financial Assistance

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.

Check Eligibility and Apply Now

Proposal Background

In 2022, staff from Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and from the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency (CASR) gathered feedback from stakeholders to hear how to best make this work for residents. The city is reaching out to indigenous people and people of color, lower-income households people on fixed incomes, older adults, households with larger families and renters, and community organizations in every Council district. Their feedback helped inform the proposal that was submitted to City Council for consideration.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

See answers to questions we've heard from residents during this process.

Why is the city proposing to expand its waste services for residents?

Denver wants to expand its services to offer all customers weekly compost and recycling collection to reduce the amount of trash it sends to the landfill. Trash in the landfill creates methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas. By offering customers better alternatives to sending their trash to the landfill, the city takes real action on climate change.

What is volume-based pricing?

In a volume-based pricing system, customers are charged for trash service based on the size of their trash cart. The smaller the cart, the lower the fee.

Who will be charged this fee?

The fee applies to the approximately 180,000 households that receive trash collection services from the City and County of Denver, specifically, single-family homes and residential buildings with up to seven units.

When will this fee start?

New fees and services will begin in January 2023.

When can I downsize my current trash cart?

Right now, current compost customers can request smaller trash carts through their Denver Utilities Online account or by calling 311 (720-913-1311). You can also request a different size compost cart through the same form. If you’ve never logged in to Denver Utilities Online before, please follow the instructions for “New Accounts” on our website: Denvergov.org/UtilitiesOnline.

If you are not a current compost customer, we recommend waiting to downsize your trash cart once composting service begins this way you'll know what cart size is best for your household.

Isn’t trash service already paid for by property taxes?

The cost of Denver’s trash collection services is not fully covered by the property taxes paid by its 180,000 trash customers. The cost of collection services is covered by the City’s General Fund, which includes all residential property taxes, including residents who don’t receive city trash collection services, property taxes from commercial properties who also don’t receive city collection services, and sales and use tax revenue paid for by everyone in Denver, including visitors.  The volume-based trash fee initiative shifts the cost of collection services to the residents receiving the services, eventually freeing up General Fund dollars for programs and services that benefit all residents. Moving to a volume-based pricing system will also allow for enhanced and expanded services such as weekly recycling and composting collection.

What will happen with the extra money in the city’s budget once trash service is paid for by fees?

We do not expect a surplus in the General Fund in the first year because that money is needed to pay for extra trucks, carts, and staff to start the service expansion, and to pay for the affordability rebate program. Once the expanded program costs are stabilized, additional money in the General Fund will be allocated to programs and services that benefit all residents and businesses through the regular budget process.

Is there a discount for low-income households?

Yes. Denver will be one of only a few cities in the United States that provides a discount on trash services for low-income households. Eligibility for the instant rebate will be based on household income and the number of people in the home, according to the Area Median Income table(PDF, 144KB). Customers will be able to register for the instant rebate before the new service begins. Renters are eligible to apply for the rebate as well. 

Check eligibility and apply now

What services are included in the new fee?

All services currently provided are included in the fee, such as weekly trash pick-up, monthly extra trash/large item pick-up, special pick-ups such as TreeCycle and the Cherry Creek Recycling Drop-off center. New service will provide weekly recycling (the current service is every other week) and composting collection for all customers. 

Why does the city need to charge this fee?

For years, customers have told the City and County of Denver they want weekly recycling services. Currently, recycling is collected every other week. A volume-based pricing system will provide the funding needed to increase the frequency of recycling collection. 

Denver’s recycling and composting rate is very low (26%) compared to the national average (34%), and the rate has only increased 1% or 2% annually for the last 20 years. We need to provide all customers with composting service to get our food waste and yard debris out of the landfill, where it rots and generates methane gas — a major cause of climate change. 

Like many other sectors of the economy, the cost of trash service is going up. Trucks, equipment, and labor costs are increasing rapidly, so Denver residents are going to pay more for this essential service either through a new fee or through the city’s General Fund budget. This proposal would charge the cost of the service only to the customers receiving the service, rather than charging all residents and businesses in the city, including those who are required to pay a private hauler for their trash service in addition to their property taxes. 

Can I opt out of composting and recycling?

Customers who only want trash service can request to have their composting and/or recycling carts taken away, but this will not change the amount they pay for the base trash service. We encourage customers who are new to composting to try the service for at least a few months to see if it can work for their household.

Learn about Composting

Small multi-unit buildings that contract with a private hauler for their trash service are still subject to the trash service fee.

What goes in the compost cart?

Yard debris and food scraps go in the compost cart, among other items. In fact, nearly half of what goes into people’s household trash is compostable, so by utilizing a compost cart for yard debris and food scraps instead of throwing it in the trash, most households will be able to downsize to a smaller trash cart and pay a lower fee. 

What do we do about illegal dumping that fills my trash cart or contaminates my recycling and compost carts?

Please call 311 or submit a complaint online to report illegal dumping as quickly as possible so that the City can send someone out to inspect the situation. One way to avoid illegal dumping is by storing carts properly between collection days, out of the right of way and on your property.

Why isn’t this change subject to a vote by the people?

In compliance with Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), income from fees can only be applied to the cost of the specific service for which the fee is charged. This proposed fee for trash service is prohibited from being spent on any other city programs, therefore it is not subject to a citywide vote. However, the proposed fee does require the approval of City Council. 

I am a renter, what choices do I have?

We encourage renters to tell their landlord what size cart they want to use. If a landlord requires a renter pay for trash service and the renter needs financial assistance doing so, the renter can apply for the instant rebate program. Renters requiring other kinds of financial assistance can apply for financial aid from the Temporary Rent and Utility Assistance program

I am a landlord, can my tenant pay the bill?

Yes, property owners can assign their tenants as the “bill-to” contact on the account so that the renters are able to log-in and submit payment online. Tenants can also pay via check. Please be aware that if a tenant fails to pay, the property will be subject to a lien after $200 and 90 days past due. 

How can I reduce my waste in order to reduce my monthly fee?

There are many ways to reduce household waste. We strongly encourage residents to Refuse, Reuse, Reduce and then Recycle and Compost:

  • Refuse, Reduce, and Reuse: Small steps, such as refusing single-use bags at checkout, opting out of junk mail, and filling reusable water bottles, help to prevent waste before it starts. Learn more about waste prevention
  • Prevent Food Waste: The average Denver resident wastes 4.2 pounds of food each week, much of which is preventable. Find tips and inspiration to cut down your food waste. 
  • Donate: Give ‘stuff’ another chance by donating instead of trashing it. Learn more here and search the Recycling Directory for donation options near you. 
  • Recycle: For waste that can’t be prevented in the first place, recycling is a great option. Find the full recycling program guidelines
  • Compost: Almost 50% of what Denver throws away is compostable material including food scraps, yard debris, and non-recyclable paper such as paper towels and napkins. Check the Denver Composts guidelines for a complete list of acceptable materials. 

Not sure what items should go in what container? Test your sorting skills virtually with the Denver Recycles Waste Sorting Game!

When you are ready to downsize your cart, visit your account online to request one.

 

 

Contact

If you have a question about how volume-based trash pricing would work in Denver, and your question is not answered in the frequently asked questions section, please submit your question here.

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