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'The education piece is critical': City of Denver explains slow rollout of free composting carts

Overflowing trash cart
Posted at 9:16 PM, Nov 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-15 23:16:04-05

DENVER — Denver7 is following up on the City of Denver's rollout of curbside composting, which was part of the switch to a "pay as you throw" trash collection model at the beginning of the year.

While the city warned the rollout would take time, Denver7 has heard from several frustrated residents still waiting on their compost carts and a clear sense of when they may receive it.

Denver resident Jennifer Anderson reached out to Denver7 with her frustration, after seeing what appeared to be hundreds of composting carts sitting unused at a recycling and composting drop-off site. Anderson has called the city regularly asking about her bin delivery, she said, after she and her husband downsized their trash cart earlier this year in anticipation of more going towards recycling and composting.

"I haven't been able to get a compost bin, and I have been asking for one for quite some time," Anderson said. "They had told me no, or I didn't really get a response. And then the other day, I was taking my leaves to the transfer station... and I saw about, like, a thousand compost bins, just stacked up — brand new — waiting to be distributed. So I called again, and asked, 'Can I get one of those compost bins that's sitting at your location in northeast Denver?' And they said, 'No, definitely not. And you can get in line because everybody wants one.'"

We reached out to the city to find out why there seems to be a hold-up with the delivery of compost carts. Nancy Kuhn, a spokesperson for Denver's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI), said there are no issues with delivery or supply of carts. The city is intentionally rolling out composting services district by district, she said, so it can track how much non-compostable material is being received and educate residents before moving onto the next district.

The city delivered approximately 10,600 compost carts to Collection District 2 in August — which includes City Park, City Park West, Five Points, North Capitol Hill, Clayton, Cole, Elyria-Swansea, Skyland, Whittier and parts of Globeville — to good response, Kuhn said. Crews have been tagging carts with contaminating materials to inform residents what should and should not be thrown into composting bins.

"The education piece is critical to the success of the program, and the goal is to make sure residents are using the service correctly before moving onto the next area," Kuhn said in a statement. "Contaminated loads of compost can be turned away by our processor, which becomes a wasteful endeavor."

Compost service is scheduled to be added to Collection District 4, which includes Montbello, Gateway, and Green Valley Ranch neighborhoods. Kuhn said the first districts chosen to receive services were identified due to their lower rates of participation in the city's existing compost program, and high rates of recyclable and compostable materials being sent to landfills.

"We have nine solid waste collection districts, and our current plan is to roll out one district per quarter, beginning with areas with low diversion rates," Kuhn told Denver7. "At that rate, we would complete rollout of the service citywide by the end of 2025. If we can move faster than that, and still meet our goals around education and compliance with people composting properly, we will."

Customers who have not yet received a compost bin should continue receiving a credit on their bill until one is delivered to them.

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