Denver Ditches the Dumpster

Not all dumpsters are bad. These beauties were painted by Ozjuah Sepia in Sun Valley.
Not all dumpsters are bad. These beauties were painted by Ozjuah Sepia in Sun Valley.
Lindsey Bartlett

Some of Denver knows this all too well: Alleys are a mess. Trash pours out of dumpsters, attracting all kinds of critters and sometimes blocking the road. 

But that might not be an issue come 2018. By then, all of Denver's 120,000 homes will have converted from dumpster or manual trash collection to cart-based trash service.

"The transition was phased over four years to coincide with our normal truck replacement cycle," says Heather Burke, a spokeswoman with the Department of Public Works. "So as we’re due to replace dumpster and manual trash-collection trucks, we can simply purchase new cart collection trucks instead.

Prior to the conversion, about 80 percent of illegal dumping in Denver was in areas with dumpsters, Burke adds.

The transition, which will cost about $6.5 million, is intended to reduce trash in Denver by making consumers more aware of their waste production and diverting more waste into recycling.

According to Burke, residences with dumpsters generate 40 percent more trash than residents with carts. Because they're smaller than dumpsters, carts cause someone to think about how much waste they're producing. 

"Residents who have their neighborhood dumpster right behind their home can also have issues with the smell, trash left against their fence, mice and flies, and they are often forced to clean up around the dumpster as well," she says. "Moving to trash carts helps with these inequities by not only increasing efficiency of our services, but also provides each home with a container, so everyone can be accountable for their own waste."

More recycling routes have been added, as have extra trash routes. Click for a map of cart conversions by neighborhood and information about which neighborhoods are ditching their dumpsters.

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