DENVER — The majority of Denver's waste ends up in a landfill. Only a quarter is diverted through recycling and composting efforts, even though half of all the trash can be composted.
For years, residents of the City and County of Denver have asked for weekly recycling services. A new proposal could make that a reality.
Currently in Denver, recycling services are once every two weeks. Composting services run once a week, but residents must pay for those services, discouraging many from trying to compost. Eliminating compostable items from the trash stream means there would be less organic material in landfills, which creates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
“The faster we can get that methane out of the landfill and send that organic material to compost, the greater chance that we'll be able to see a benefit in our lifetime in reducing those greenhouse gas emissions," said Winna MacLaren of the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency. “The City of Denver really tasked our office with tackling climate change, and this is one way that we know works. One way that we know is proven."
The proposal would charge customers based on the size of trash can selected in order to pay for the recycling and composting services. The smaller the bin, the less the fee. The most expensive trash can would cost $21 a month, and the smallest would be $9 a month.
“You'll see around the country, there are cities that have two to three times the rates of diversion that Denver does, and one thing that they all have in common is charging for trash," said MacLaren. “There is, there is no earning money from this. The city isn't going to be making a profit. It's solely based off of the cost of service.”
Only 26 percent of Denver's waste is diverted from landfills. In comparison to other cities, Portland diverts 81 percent, Austin diverts 42 percent, and Boulder diverts 53 percent. The national average is 34 percent.
Those with the city hope this plan would increase Denver's diversion rate to 50 percent. Customers could opt out of the composting or recycling choices, but it would not change how much they pay for trash services.
Alyssia Richardson, who owns a sustainable community-based vermicomposting center, believes the proposal is a good idea. However, she wants to ensure it does not disproportionately impact marginalized communities.
“Communities of color are probably going to be hit by this the most," said Richardson. “It can have some adverse effects when you look at different income levels and different demographics.”
MacLaren said there would be a discount for low-income households on their trash services, if this proposal were passed.
If the proposal is approved by Denver City Council, the new service and fee would go into effect by the end of this year.