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Denver could start charging for trash pickup

The City of Denver believes it can offer weekly recycling and composting to all customers by charging a fee for trash pickup.

DENVER — The City and County of Denver is exploring charging a fee for trash pickup while adding recycling and composting service for no charge.

The city, which services about 180,000 households or approximately two-thirds of Denver residences, said it has heard from its customers who want expanded recycling. By providing recycling and composting at no additional charge, the city believes it can meet its goals of reducing landfill waste, addressing climate change and creating better waste habits.

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.

The city said its proposed fee structure will be 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.

Denver currently provides recycling every two weeks, but said its residents have been requesting weekly recycling for several years. Denver 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.

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.

Credit: adobe.stock.com

"The city is prohibited by state law from making a profit from waste collection fees," said a news release. "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." 

Denver’s current recycling rate is 26%, below the national average of 34%.

Staff from Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) and from the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency (CASR) are currently gathering feedback to see if the trash and recycling proposal would work for Denver residents.

The city also said it will reach 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 before submitting it to Denver City Council for consideration.

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