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Six Reasons Why We’ll Miss Dumpsters in Denver

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By 2018, there will be no more dumpsters in the alleys of Denver, or so the city says. They’ll be gradually replaced between now and then by plastic rollaway carts. Supposedly, the move will cut down on waste and encourage recycling, and discourage illegal dumping as well.

But it’s also the end of an era for the city of Denver, and while it’s not the biggest issue facing our neighborhoods, it’s clearly something that’s deserving of discussion. Or, at least, an elegy…and six reasons why the passing of the dumpster might just be a dumpster fire of an idea.

6. Forlorn Dumpster Divers
Laugh if you want, but this is a serious question for those live-simply extremists, either out of philosophy or need, who search dumpsters for things they can still use or repurpose. This group is broad in scope: the homeless population, local artists who thrive on found objects as a medium, and hoarders who we need for our exploitative cable-TV entertainment. 

5. No Place for Inconvenient Trash
Look, sometimes you have something you need to get rid of and it's too big for your bin. Or worse, you don’t even want to admit it’s your own trash. We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s that living room carpet that your diabetic pug has been peeing on for the better part of a year, and you’re finally at the point where you can admit that the spot-cleaning isn’t working. Maybe it’s your ex-couch that no charity staffers in their right minds will take and even a free notice on Craigslist hasn’t eliminated. Maybe you found three boxes of a former tenant’s bondage-porn collection. Whatever it is, you want it gone, it’s too big for the bin, and you sure as hell don’t want anyone tracing that back to you. You have enough problems. Too bad there’s not a huge anonymous garbage receptacle around. That’d be handy.

4. Dog Poop
Speaking of unwanted shit in your trash bin, there’s a sense of property rights that comes into play with the carts that just doesn’t with the dumpster. The dumpster belongs to everyone. It’s the most communal thing within blocks of your house save for the parks — and even then, the dumpster doesn’t try to close its lid at dusk. The dumpster is perhaps the most egalitarian resource we have in this city, and we’re tossing that aside so we can feel some righteous indignation when some anonymous dog walker puts anonymous crap from some anonymous dog in your bin. (And that's the best-case scenario, mind you.) This is just asking for neighborly resentment, propriety bin-wars and passive-aggressive, snottily written homemade signage.

Continue to see our top three reasons why we'll miss dumpsters in Denver.

3. Sometimes You Have a Lot of Trash
Especially in the months when gardening is prevalent — as in, most of the year — there are some industrious weekends when the average homeowner might have several bags of grass clippings or raked leaves or pulled weeds. Those bags alone won’t fit in the bins, let alone the actual garbage that will accumulate from the house over the course of an average week. The city’s answer to this is the every-four-weeks “Extra Trash” collecting, which they used to call Large Item Pickup, and will ostensibly require homeowners to store piles of literal garbage on their property until their one week a month comes around. Sort of the opposite of the City Beautiful movement.

2. Dumpsters Mean Urban; Rollaways Mean the Suburbs
People live in the city for a reason: because they specifically don’t want to live in the suburbs. Sure, there are people who love Stapleton and Highlands Ranch, and those are rollaway people. They have, say, an attached garage in which to store the many garbage and recycling cans they have to cart out on schedule, and they like it that way. That’s cool for them, but some of us live in the city because we want dumpsters. We like to see what neighbors put out for collection in the asphalt and weeds. We don’t mind that people wander the alleys and might take shelter under a dumpster if that’s the only place they’ve got. The graffiti is fine; sometimes it's beautiful or awesome or both, and even when it's not, the convenience is worth it. We live here because dumpsters are a part of the texture of this place. The last thing city government needs is to feel more like an HOA.

1. It’s Flat-Out Unrealistic
The rollaway carts just don’t jibe with high-density living, which is only increasing here in Denver, especially in its most dynamic sections: RiNo, LoDo, Five Points, Cap Hill. Those high-rises and mixed-use buildings planned for the River North district will have a plethora of residents, and not every one of them will be able to have their own trash bin. Same for smaller complexes, like the one currently being finished at Welton and Park Avenue West. While dumpster service will for this year remain in many of those areas, that’ll be changing sometime within the following 24 months. For all of Denver, the writing is clearly on the alley wall: The era of the dumpster is almost over. The dumpster is dead; long live the dumpster.

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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