You Asked, We Answered: Denver Ditches the Dumpster Pt. Two

Last week we published a story that incited a lot of trash talk.

We told you that the City of Denver plans to phase out dumpsters by 2018, and some of you voiced strong opinions about the dumpster's alternative: manual trash collection to cart-based trash service. So we condensed your questions and sent them to Department of Public Works spokeswoman Heather Burke, who responded in an e-mail.
See, sometimes it pays to have a dirty mouth. 

Westword: The city says illegal dumping has decreased in Denver as dumpsters, which attract that sort of illicit activity, have been phased out. But some readers say they've seen more illegal dumping. 

Heather Burke: We’ve seen an increase in reports of illegal dumping, but the quantity and severity has decreased significantly.

A number of readers said they filled the 95-gallon bins the city now provides halfway through the week. Any advice for them? 

A 95-gallon trash container holds between seven to nine garbage bags or up to 250 pounds. Filling these bins halfway through the week is equivalent to throwing away one trash bag every day! If this is the case, there are options for residents who want to reduce their waste: 

Recycle: Recyclable material can account for 25 percent or more of household trash. For those who don’t have a purple recycling cart, they can sign up for free on our website. For residents who already recycle, we suggest reviewing the current list of accepted materials for recycling and see if there are any items that may have been overlooked as trash.
Recycling Drop-Offs: Search Denver Recycles’ Recycling Directory for listings on where hundreds of different materials can be recycled, repurposed or reused. Local drop-off options are available for just about anything from electronics to clothing. 
Compost: Organic material like yard debris accounts for more than 50 percent of Denver’s household trash. Residents in participating neighborhoods can sign up for the Denver Compost program to cut their waste in half! If a resident’s home is not within one of the compost service areas, consider starting a backyard compost pile or bin. Denver Recycles, in partnership with Denver Urban Gardens, offers free Learn to Compost classes each spring. Residents can also bring yard debris to our Cherry Creek drop-off center for free!
Grasscycle: Instead of throwing away grass clippings after mowing the lawn, recycle them instead! Denver Public Works recommends leaving grass clippings on the lawn so it’s healthier. Clippings break down quickly and slowly release nutrients like nitrogen back into the soil beneath the lawn. Other benefits of “grasscycling” are listed on our website.

Shop Smart: Choose products that are returnable, reusable or refillable rather than single-use or disposable items. Buy in bulk for commonly used items and choose products in recyclable packaging.

One reader said his house is built for alley trash pickup, not curbside. Has the city considered this predicament, and if so, how is it being addressed?

Every home in Denver has a different layout depending on the neighborhood. Some areas are designed for alley pick-up,  and others for curb pick-up. Before Denver Public Works rolls out trash carts to a neighborhood, every block is evaluated to determine if alley or curbside would be the best.

For alley pickup, we evaluate:

• Which side of the alley would work best?
• Do all residents have access to the alley?
• Is there space to hold the number of trash carts in the area?
If we find we can’t service the alley, then we will do curb pickup. In some areas, we collect trash from both the alley and the curb based on the layout of the neighborhood.

Someone mentioned a townhome complex in which everyone is supposed to keep their bins in the garage. However, there is no room in the garage, so the bins are in the alley where the dumpster once stood. "Where there once was 1 dumpster, there are now 15 trash the alley...all in the row," the reader wrote. Your response?

Denver Public Works requires trash carts to be stored on the resident’s property in between collections. Depending on the property, a trash cart could be stored inside a fence, in a setback or in a garage. Residents who are struggling to find a location can call 311, and Denver Public Works will come out to help those residents find a safe place to keep their trash cart.

One reader asked about apartment buildings — specifically, whether trash cans are expected to be left on one side of the alley, like recycling.

Denver collects trash from apartment buildings of up to seven units. Larger buildings are not impacted by the trash-cart conversions. See response above on how we determine alley and curb collections.

Where are the old dumpsters going? 

We’re trying to reuse as many dumpsters as we can. Some were given to Denver Parks and Recreation, others are being used to service schools or were sold to private trash haulers.

In our first story, you said the city has reported that less space for garbage will cause a consumer to produce less garbage. Some of our readers didn't believe you.

Since the early 1990s, Denver has been servicing about 57,000 homes with trash carts. Our waste generation data by collection type shows homes with trash carts produce 40 percent less trash on average than homes with dumpsters.
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Ana Campbell has been Westword's managing editor since 2016. She has worked at magazines and newspapers around the country, picking up a few awards along the way for her writing and editing. She grew up in south Texas.
Contact: Ana Campbell