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Denver City Council considering 'pay as you throw' to increase recycling rates

Recycled Cans and Bottles
Posted at 10:07 PM, Apr 22, 2022

DENVER — The Denver City Council is once again considering a “pay as you throw” waste management model to increase recycling and composting rates.

The model has been proposed in Denver in the past, but has not been adopted; however, pushes from advocates coupled with success in other cities are reigniting new consideration.

The system would flip the current incentive structure of waste in Denver, by offering recycling and composting bins at no extra cost while increasing charges of trash bins for households with high amounts of garbage. The city would charge $9 per month for a small trash bin, $13 for a medium bin, and $21 for a large bin.

Denver lags behind other comparable cities and the national average for recycling and composting rates. City data shows 26% of waste in Denver was diverted from landfills in 2020, compared to a national average of 34% The city recently announced a goal of 50% diversion by 2027, and 70% by 2032.

“Composting is one of the easiest, most impactful things I can do as an individual to lower my carbon footprint easily,” said Tara Tull, an environmentalist in Denver advocating for the proposal. “The same is true for a city. If a city just wanted to pick one thing to do out of the list of things you can do for sustainability, if they started increasing the amount of recycling and composting, that would make a huge difference to the carbon footprint of that city.”

Loveland adopted a pay-as-you-throw trash model in 1993, and in the decades since has seen recycling rates well above the national average. Even during a slight dip during the pandemic, about 58% of waste in the city was diverted from landfills, according to Solid Waste Superintendent Tyler Bandemer. Before the pandemic, he said rates were above 60%.

Key to the success, he said, has been the pay-as-you-throw system combined with composting and recycling at no extra cost.

“I think a lot of communities can learn from the things we’re doing,” Bandemer said. “Just the fact that we give so many options to get rid of all of these materials that don’t need to go into the landfill.”

The “pay as you throw” proposal is scheduled to be discussed by the Land Use, Transportation, & Infrastructure Committee of the Denver City Council on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.