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May 2015 • Online Edition
Dumpsters Take A Dive: Carts Will Chart A New Course | Print |  E-mail

by Charlotte Pitt, Manager
Denver Recycles/Solid Waste Mgmt.
City & County of Denver

Like all industries, the waste collection business is always changing and evolving.

New practices, new equipment and new technologies allow cities and other service providers to make continual improvements.

Denver has been working to improve and expand its service delivery to residents the past two decades, with introduction of the recycling program in the early ‘90s, changing to cart-based recycling service in 2005 and 2006, and introducing a pilot composting program in late 2008.

Now, in 2014, the City is beginning to implement a plan to standardize trash collection by transitioning every neighborhood to cart-based trash service.  Standardizing trash services was a key recommendation of the2010 Master Plan for Managing Waste in the Mile High City” to ensure equity of service, improve efficiency, drive sustainability, and improve the cleanliness of our neighborhoods. 

In Denver, about 57,000 homes already receive cart-based trash service. The plan is to transition the remaining homes that receive dumpster trash service (about 65,000) and manual service (about 51,000) to cart-based service in the next four to five years. 

There are a number of reasons to change to a standardized cart-based trash service. They are:

1. Sustainability

a. The city’s average recycling rate is 14 percent; the national average is 34 percent. Homes with cart-based trash service recycle more and generate less waste. 

b. In Denver, the average disposal in neighborhoods with dumpster service is 1.53 tons per household per year. In areas with trash cart service, the average disposal rate is 1.09 tons per household per year. 

c. About 75 percent of what Denver residents throw away is “good stuff” that could be recycled or composted.

2. Efficiency

a. Of the top 30 cities in the U.S., more than 27 of them provide some cart-based trash service whether through the municipal government or through a private company. That means technology improvements in trucks and containers are focused around this type of cart-based service. 

b. Cart-based trash trucks can hold more waste and service more homes per route than other types of trucks.  Transitioning to this service will allow Solid Waste Management to reduce the number of miles driven and fuel used, and will allow one truck to service more homes. 

c. Moving away from the current three types of trash service will mean that the City does not have to maintain three types of trash collection vehicles.

3. Cleanliness and Illegal Dumping

a. Illegal dumping and misuse of services occurs citywide. However, 80 percent of the reported misuse and illegal dumping happens in alleys that receive dumpster service. 

b. Litter is often a problem in areas that receive manual trash service, so using city-issued trash carts will allow much of that trash to be containerized and will aid in reducing litter.

4. Equitable Service

a. When dumpsters are placed behind someone’s home, they have the unfair burden of living with their neighbor’s trash.  Dumpsters smell, attract flies and rodents, and thus affect the residents of the homes they sit behind. Many residents who have a dumpster along their property line are also burdened with keeping the area around that dumpster clean. Individual trash carts will allow each home to be responsible for their own trash.

b. Standardized trash service also means that each resident receives the same level of service no matter where they live in the city.

The expansion of Denver’s cart-based trash collection service is beginning this year, with one change made to the original rollout plan. The transition to trash carts in East Washington Park and Cory Merrill will be delayed until 2015 so that 2014 efforts can focus on transitioning the Platt Park, Rosedale, Overland and University neighborhoods. The conversion in these neighborhoods is scheduled to take place in November.

About eight weeks prior to the conversion of each neighborhood, Solid Waste Management will be conducting a series of outreach efforts to residents, including a public meeting to ensure people are aware of the service changes and are able to get their questions and concerns answered.

Info: DenverGov.org/SolidWastePlan, call Solid Waste Management at 3-1-1 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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