Zero Waste Denver
Our Campaign to Help Denver Become a Zero Waste Leader
This push is part of our Zero Waste Colorado campaign.
Colorado's recycling rate is well below average. Amping up recycling in Denver can change that significantly.
Authors: Kate Bailey, Eco-Cycle; Danny Katz, CoPIRG Foundation; Endorsed by Sierra Club Denver Metro Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
In 2014, Colorado recycled just 12 percent of its waste while the national average was 34 percent. More than 65 percent of Coloradans seldom or never recycle and curbside recycling is available in less than half of all Colorado counties. See how Denver compares to other cities across the Front Range.
Denver, the state’s population center, only recycled 20 percent of its discards in 2016. Curbside recycling is available only to most single-family residents--not to multi-family properties or businesses--and curbside composting is only available to a small percentage of Denver’s population.
Denver is falling behind on the basics of recycling at a time when major cities, including San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, have set Zero Waste goals. Even Denver's peer cities, such as Salt Lake City, UT; Charlotte, NC; and Austin, TX, recycle twice as much as Denver. See how Denver compares on recycling to its peers.
Sign Up for recycling and composting services
Make sure you have your purple recycling cart. Enroll in Denver’s compost program to get your green cart. For less than $10/month, you will be making a huge, positive impact on our future. Call Denver Recycles at (720) 913-1311 to get your carts.
If you live in an apartment building that does not have recycling, talk to your landlord and ask for the service. In addition, contact your City Council member and the Mayor so they know how many of their constituents are being left behind.
While recycling is a feel good activity, it also operates as a business. The better job you do putting materials in the correct bin, the better materials can be recycled, making more money for the city and improving the programs the City can deliver to residents. Review these guidelines to make sure you only recycle what the city accepts and know the most important materials to keep out of your bin. See Figure 4 in this document.
Reduce and Reuse
To get started reducing your waste, check out this guide for the top five single-use, disposable items to avoid.
Check these sites for information about local thrift stores, donation sites and tool libraries:
See our proposed action plan for getting Denver to Zero Waste in our letter to Denver Mayor Hancock below.
We're gathering signatures to show Mayor Hancock that Denverites want a Zero Waste Plan. Click here to sign the letter.
The Honorable Michael B. HancockMayor of the City of Denver, Colorado1437 Bannock Street #350Denver, CO 80202Dear Mayor Hancock:We are encouraged that the City of Denver has set a target of “increasing citywide recycling from the current 15 percent to 34 percent or greater” as part of its 2020 Sustainability Goals. This is a major step forward for which the city deserves applause.However, we believe Denver can and must do better to reap the enormous environmental, social and economic benefits of recycling.Zero Waste solutions—reduce, reuse, recycle and compost--are among the quickest, most cost-effective ways for local communities to reduce the pollution driving climate change while also creating local jobs, saving energy and water, and conserving natural resources.Our city is behind the times when it comes to recycling, and more broadly, Zero Waste. Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, for example, currently recycle and compost at least 60 percent of their waste and are striving toward Zero Waste.It’s time for Denver to become a regional Zero Waste leader.As Denver community members, we urge you to implement the following Zero Waste strategies within the next 2-5 years.1. Reward recycling and composting; discourage waste. All Denver residents pay the same rates for trash service, so residents who produce less trash subsidize those who produce more. We need to create incentives for people to reduce waste by recycling and composting more.2. Increase business recycling. Businesses produce as much as 60 percent of municipal waste. We need to help businesses improve their recycling and composting efforts as a key part of reducing our climate impact.3. Provide curbside composting for all residents. Currently, composting is only available to a few neighborhoods. Composting fights climate change by increasing the soil’s capacity to store carbon and also makes healthier soils that, in turn, produce healthier plants and food. We need to ensure that everyone in Denver has access to composting service.We urge you to prioritize these policies as we work together for a more sustainable and prosperous community.