by J. Patrick O’Leary
In the face of financial challenges, Denver is doing its darndest to keep compostable garbage, grass clippings and hazardous materials out of its landfill. Rather than throw in the towel, the city is charging fees for some programs and publicizing no- or low-cost practices to conserve natural resources and protect the environment.
Denver Recycles continued to run its curbside composting collection
pilot program last year, thanks to grant money received after the
program came to an end. Originally, 3,000 households in select
neighborhoods volunteered to collect and put out their food scraps,
soiled paper and yard debris – 100 percent compostable -- which was
picked up weekly and trucked out to A-1 Organics in Keensburg for
Organic material makes up most of what Denverites
toss, and the program diverted 1,800 tons of compostable material from
the landfill since the pilot program started in October
2008, according to Charlotte Pitt, Recycling Program Manager at Denver
Recycles. That not only saved space, but reduced the amount of methane
released into the atmosphere; organic matter that decomposes in a
landfill produces the potent greenhouse gas.
When the grant
money for the program ran out, Denver Recycles chose to continue the
environmentally healthy program this spring by charging a nominal amount
($58.50 for six months) for continued service. But participation
declined with the change.
“Almost half paid for the service right
away,” says Pitt. “This is about what we expected because, as with any
new pilot, lots of people opt in and then lose enthusiasm, or move and
turn (green composting) carts over to other neighbors.” At least 100
participants were lost because service wasn’t transferred with the cart.
So, Denver Recycles is recruiting new participants in those original
neighborhoods. At press time, there was space in all but two on the very
west of Denver, according to Pitt. Denver Recycles will accept sign-ups through
July until the program is filled. Residents can check for eligibility
by visiting www.DenverGov.org/DenverRecycles and clicking on the “Denver
Composts!” link – it has an online database that is searchable by
Only a limited
number of households can participate in the curbside program, but anyone
can do their own backyard composting. To encourage that, Denver
Recycles and Denver Urban Gardens are continuing to offer weekly,
hands-on composting classes – including “vermiposting” with worms –
through the summer and into fall at Gove Community Garden, E. 13th Ave.
and Colorado Blvd. Classes are free, but space is limited – July’s
offerings were booked solid at press time. Click on “Free Learn to
Compost Classes” on the website to see what’s available in the future,
and sign up.
GrassCycling continues in the face of budget
cutbacks, simply because it’s free and easy. It’s simply a catchy word
for the green practice of leaving grass clippings on the lawn when
mowing, instead of bagging them for collection. Up to 37 percent of what
Denver residents put in the trash during the growing season is yard
waste, primarily grass clippings. Not only does GrassCycling free up
landfill space and reduce hauling costs, it returns nutrients to the
soil and shades the roots and soil, reducing the amount of water needed
by a lawn. Details and mowing recommendations can be found at the
website as well, on the “GrassCycle” link.
waste (HHW) can sometimes be recycled, but should always be kept out of
the landfill. To that end, the city restarted its door-to-door
collection and drop-off program, which was shut down last fall when its
budget was exhausted. The door-to-door program is limited to Denver
Solid Waste Management customers, residing in a single family home,
townhome, or apartment building of seven units or fewer, and can only be
used once a year. Residents make a phone call to schedule a pickup
date, then receive a disposal kit and instructions in the mail.
To stretch the budget this year, the city has changed the rules to
“more efficiently use” its funds: A $20 co-pay is charged, and there are
minimum weight requirements and waste type requirements. If the weight
and content guidelines aren’t met, the resident pays the whole disposal
fee of $90-114. Other materials (antifreeze, motor oil, car batteries,
latex paint and CFL bulbs) are being directed to free retail disposal
“The stricter requirement on materials is an attempt to
drive people to use free drop site options for some of the easier to
recycle materials first, before using the HHW program,” Pitt explains.
“Again, another attempt to stretch dollars to service more residents.”
For detailed information on what the city can and cannot collect,
do-it-yourself options, procedures and fees, click on the “Hazardous
Waste” link on the website.
Curbside recycling is still offered
to eligible residents at no charge; click on the “Residential Recycling
Services” link for details.