Curbside com­post­ing pickup ex­pands

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jon Mur­ray Jon Mur­ray: 303-954-1405, jmur­ray@den­ver­ or @JonMur­ray

Den­ver’s slow roll­out of curbside com­post­ing pickup is about to ac­cel­er­ate as the city makes the paid ser­vice avail­able in most farnorth­east neigh­bor­hoods and, by year’s end, nearly city­wide.

The city is launch­ing two new com­post­ing routes that pri­mar­ily will serve Mont­bello and Green Val­ley Ranch, along with a few other pock­ets. That ex­pan­sion comes as Den­ver’s Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works pre­pares to con­vert an­other 35,000 homes to 95-gal­lon black carts for trash pickup. Those de­liv­er­ies will end a fouryear phase-out of al­ley Dump­sters and cus­tomer-owned bar­rels so that all homes are on a uni­form sys­tem.

Pub­lic Works also will drop off thousands more pur­ple re­cy­cling carts at house­holds that haven’t opted in for that free add-on ser­vice, part of a multi-year ef­fort to nudge them into sep­a­rat­ing out plas­tics, glass and pa­per.

The up­shot of all three moves, of­fi­cials say, will be to di­vert more trash from land­fills — a goal that Den­ver long has strug­gled to achieve.

Den­ver last year notched a 20 per­cent di­ver­sion rate for re­cy­clables and biodegrad­able waste, such as left­over food, that cus­tomers placed in sep­a­rate bins, ac­cord­ing to the city’s Solid Waste Man­age­ment. The di­ver­sion rate in­creased from 16 per­cent in the past two years, but it’s still far short of the 34 per­cent goal set by city of­fi­cials for 2020 — and is much lower than the rates of sev­eral other Front Range cities.

“We’re see­ing slow but sure growth,” Pub­lic Works spokes­woman Heather Burke said.

The Den­ver City Coun­cil on Mon­day ap­proved a $2.2 mil­lion pur­chase or­der with man­u­fac­turer Toter for 45,178 res­i­den­tial trash, re­cy­cling and com­post carts.

Though such ini­tia­tives are likely to in­crease the trash di­ver­sion rate, crit­ics in­clud­ing the Colorado Pub­lic In­ter­est Re­search Group have pointed to other cities, in­clud­ing Seat­tle, that have had suc­cess with more ag­gres­sive waste-man­age­ment ap­proaches. Such poli­cies in­clude vol­ume­based trash ser­vice pric­ing and re­quir­ing that res­i­dents use curbside com­post­ing, with no ex­tra fee.

New routes

Af­ter launch­ing two new com­post­ing pickup routes in com­ing weeks, the city plans to roll out four more in the fall, af­ter new trucks are de­liv­ered. The coun­cil had pushed for more routes dur­ing last year’s bud­get dis­cus­sions.

“We have not routed these trucks yet but we are ex­pect­ing to be able to of­fer ser­vice to al­most all of the re­main­ing ar­eas of the city,” said Char­lotte Pitt, the man­ager of Den­ver Re­cy­cles.

She said her depart­ment re­cently mailed post­cards to res­i­dents in the ar­eas that will be served by the two lat­est routes to no­tify them they now are el­i­gi­ble to sub­scribe. For a fee of $29.25 ev­ery three months, city trucks will pick up food scraps, yard waste, soiled pa­per and other or­ganic ma­te­rial that can be com­posted.

Be­sides Green Val­ley Ranch, Gate­way and Mont­bello, the new routes will serve parts of Sta­ple­ton and its North­field sec­tion, the Wash­ing­ton Park West and Speer neigh­bor­hoods in south Den­ver, and Har­vey Park to the south­west.

But Den­ver has faced low sub­scriber­ship along its five ex­ist­ing com­post pickup routes, with only about 10,000 (12.5 per­cent) sign­ing up. Even af­ter 11 routes are in place this fall, serv­ing 160,000 house­holds — twice the num­ber cur­rently el­i­gi­ble — Pub­lic Works projects that sub­scrip­tions will in­crease to just 20,000.

This week’s cart or­der in­cluded 3,108 green com­post­ing carts. Even­tu­ally, city of­fi­cials hope to wrap com­post­ing pickup into the city taxes that pay for trash and re­cy­cling, but that is a bud­get ques­tion that has not yet been an­swered.

Trash cart con­ver­sion

Ul­ti­mately, the city’s solid waste plan calls for ev­ery house­hold served by Den­ver Pub­lic Works — in­clud­ing sin­gle-fam­ily homes and mul­ti­fam­ily build­ings with up to seven units — to have three carts to make sep­a­ra­tion of their waste easy.

While it ex­pands ac­cess to com­post­ing and works to get more house­holds to re­cy­cle, Pub­lic Works since 2014 has been on a drive to re­move al­ley Dump­sters, which some­times at­tract il­le­gal dump­ing, and get all homes to use the same large black bins.

Crews will de­liver carts in three phases — to re­main­ing south­east pock­ets in April, to near-down­town, cen­tral and north­west neigh­bor­hoods in July and Au­gust, and to east Den­ver homes in Septem­ber. The city re­cently mailed post­cards no­ti­fy­ing af­fected house­holds of the com­ing change.

Burke said ar­eas that the city con­verted to the carts pre­vi­ously have seen an in­crease in re­cy­cling rates, pos­si­bly be­cause of the smaller size of the carts and be­cause cus­tomers typ­i­cally keep the two carts to­gether.

A mod­est boost

Den­ver long has treated curbside re­cy­cling as an opt-in ser­vice. But Pitt said pi­lot projects con­vinced Pub­lic Works of­fi­cials that house­holds that haven’t signed up often will make use of the pur­ple carts if they’re dropped off.

City crews be­gan do­ing that last year for the 18 per­cent of trash cus­tomers that haven’t asked for re­cy­cling pickup.

“We will be do­ing au­to­matic de­liv­ery again this year in the ar­eas get­ting trash carts and ex­pect to de­liver about 6,500 re­cy­cling carts” in July, Pitt wrote in an email. “Af­ter this year, we’ll have about 24,000 homes that still need re­cy­cling carts, and we will take a year or two to get those out to homes.”

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