Full Circle Recycling: How Choosing the Right Products Can Support Recycling

Recycling is an easy and effective way for Denver residents to reduce their impact on the environment. However, placing recyclable material into Denver’s purple recycling carts is only the first step in the circular process of recycling which includes collection, re-manufacturing and consumer choice. When combined, these three phases of the recycling process are capable of preserving natural resources, reducing pollution, reducing the need for landfill capacity, and saving energy. Here are some examples of how the three-part recycling process works within the City and County of Denver:

  • Collection: Denver residents collect and recycle materials in purple carts. Then, Denver Recycles’ trucks pick up this material and deliver it to a material processing facility in north Denver where materials are separated and sorted for shipment to manufacturing facilities.   
  • Manufacturing: Recycled materials are re-processed and turned into new products. It’s hard to believe, but it only takes six weeks for an aluminum can to make it from a purple recycling cart to the grocery shelf as a new aluminum can!
  • Consumer: Consumer choices drive the market for recycled products. When possible, Denver residents are urged to purchase recycled content products that are made from the very material they recycle in their homes, offices and schools. 

Since being an informed consumer and purchasing materials produced from recycled materials is just as much a part of recycling process as is the habit of filling your purple cart, be sure to check the labels of the products you regularly purchase and make sure you choose the products made from recycled materials.  Here are some of the labels you may find: 

  • Post-Consumer Waste: This is the best choice and means that the product is made from materials that were discarded after their original use into recycling programs like Denver’s. For example, paper towels made from post-consumer waste contain fibers that were once part of office paper, cardboard or other materials Denver residents regularly put in their purple carts. 
  • Pre-Consumer Waste or Post-Industrial Waste: This means the product is made from waste generated in the manufacturing process. While this is a great form of recycling, the purchase of post-consumer content should take priority over pre-consumer content.
  • Recyclable: It’s great to buy products that are recyclable. However, this label doesn't necessarily mean that the product is made from recycled materials. 

Remember, most products that contain recycled material are labeled, so look for clues that you are purchasing products that help complete the recycling loop
. Some common products that often contain pre- or post-consumer waste include: paper, paper towels, toilet paper, carpeting, clothing, plastic bottles like shampoo and cleaning products, cereal boxes, and so much more.

 For more information about what can be recycled in Denver, visit DenverGov.org/DenverRecycles, or call 311 (720-913-1311).

Denver Trash Cart Conversions Starting in August 2014

As a way to improve efficiency and streamline municipal trash collection in the City and County of Denver, Public Works’ Solid Waste Management division is working on a multi-phase project to eventually transition all residential customers to a cart-based trash collection service.    

The standardization of trash collection services is a key initiative that was outlined in the 2010 “Master Plan for Managing Solid Waste in the Mile High City” aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of trash collection services.  The 2014 conversions, which begin this month and continue through November, will convert 20,000 households around the City from manual or dumpster collection to cart collection service. The neighborhoods and the months in which they will be transitioned are as follows:
  • August- Elyria Swansea, Globeville, parts of Clayton and Cole
  • September- Barnum, Barnum West, Westwood, part of West Colfax
  • October- East Colfax, east portion of Park Hill, east portion of Montclair, part of Hale
  • November- Platt Park, Overland, Rosedale, southern part of University

Currently, the City provides trash collection services using three different systems that each require a different set of equipment. The standardization of trash collection services to a cart-based system provides many benefits to the residents of Denver and the City.  They include: 

  • Improved Collection Efficiency: Moving all residents to cart-based trash will allow for standardization of trucks and containers, thus reducing the miles driven and fuel consumed by collection trucks.
  • Equal Services City-wide:  The trash cart conversion will lead to an equitable trash and recycling system that is the same Citywide, no matter where you live.
  • Decreased incidence of illegal dumping: Neighborhoods with cart-based trash service have less illegal dumping issues than those with dumpster or manual service. In fact, 80% of the reported illegal dumping in the City is from the 35% of the City with dumpster-based service!Personal Accountability:  Each household is responsible for their own waste, services are not shared.
  • Cleaner and safer Alleys and Neighborhoods: The cart trash service will help decrease litter, graffiti, overflowing trash containers or bags, and overall mess. It will also decrease hiding spaces for illegal activities and allow law enforcement officers to better monitor alleys.
  • Increased Recycling: Despite incredible participation in the recycling program, only 14% of our waste is being recycled, compared to 34% nationally.  The new cart based trash service will help encourage residents to recycle even more.
 For more information on trash and recycling services or the upcoming trash cart conversion process, please visit DenverGov.org/SolidWastePlan.

4 Great Recycling Tips for the Summer Months

Recycling in Denver this summer is easy and free! Here are a four different ways you can save money, reduce the waste disposed in your home and maximize the use of free recycling services offered through Denver Recycles:
  • Free Compost Classes: Take a free two-hour class and learn how you can get your backyard composting pile kick started, then apply your knowledge and your garden will thank you! Backyard composting is a fun way to reduce the amount of yard waste you throw away and improve your lawn at the same time.  In partnership with Denver Urban Gardens, Denver Recycles offers “Learn to Compost” classes through October at the Denver Compost Demonstration Site (13th and Colorado). To review the class schedule and register for a class, visit dug.org/compost or call 303-292-9900.
  • Free Appliance Recycling: Recycle your unwanted household appliances by scheduling a free pick up through Denver Recycles. Discarded appliances not only take up a lot of space in the landfill, they are also completely recyclable! All Denver residents serviced by Solid Waste Management are eligible for free appliance recycling collection service. By scheduling your collection through Denver Recycles you  ensure that all metals are recycled and Freon gases from refrigerated appliances are handled in an environmentally safe manner.  To schedule a pick-up, visit DenverGov.org/DenverRecycles or call call 1-800-479-4159.
  • Free Recycling at Parks: If your travels take you to Washington Park, Cheeseman Park or City Park this summer take the opportunity to recycle your materials in one of the new large purple recycling containers. Denver Recycles is partnering with Denver Parks & Recreation to pilot this recycling program in three parks.  Recycle your cans, plastic bottles and containers, cardboard, paper and other items. Remember, plastic bags, pet waste, Styrofoam, food or trash are not recyclable and should not be placed in these containers.
  • Free Residential Recycling: Of course, Denver residents can always recycle at home in their purple carts.  In 2013, 71% of eligible Denver households had recycling services. While this number is high, it still means that nearly 30% of eligible households in Denver are not recycling at home! If you live in a single family home or multi-family home with 7 or less units, you can get free recycling. If you already have service, please let your neighbors know that they can get free recycling too. Remember, you do not need to own your home to sign-up for service.
To take advantage of any or all of these FREE recycling opportunities offered by Denver, call 311 (720-913-1311) or visit DenverGov.org/DenverRecycles.

Grasscycle: Leave Your Grass Clippings on Your Lawn

Feed your lawn and reduce your waste simply by leaving your grass clippings on your lawn after mowing. It’s called Grasscycling, and it is the natural way to recycle grass clippings and return valuable nutrients back into your lawn. Grasscycling also returns needed moisture to your lawn, which is especially important in dry summer drought conditions.

Tips for Grasscycling: 
  1. You can grasscycle with any mower. Just remove the mower collection bag to allow clippings to drop on the lawn. If your mower does not have a safety flap covering the opening over which the bag fits, then you may need to purchase a retrofit kit from your local hardware store.
  2. Mow your lawn when it’s dry. When lawns are wet, the grass clippings clump together and do not feed your lawn as well as dry grass clippings.
  3. Follow the “1/3” Rule. To foster healthy grass, do not cut more than 1/3 of the length of the grass and leave clippings no more than one inch long. Lawns are most healthy when they are mowed to a height of 2 ½ to 3 inches.
  4. If you use a landscape service, be sure you ask them to leave the clippings on your lawn. 
Benefits of Grasscycling:  

  • Grasscycling benefits you. The United States EPA references a study showing that by not bagging clippings, mowing took about 38% less time, all the more time to be playing and lying on your grass! It also reduces your work load when you mow because it saves you the hassle of bagging, hauling, and disposing of grass clippings.
  • Grasscycling benefits your lawn. Leaving the grass clippings on your lawn will shade the roots of your grass and help keep the soil cool so it requires less manual watering. Grass clippings are more than 85% water and they return valuable moisture to the soil. Grasscycling is also a great way to recycle important nutrients like nitrogen back into the soil which reduces the need for supplemental nitrogen fertilizer. Grass clippings break down quickly and do not cause thatch. Contrary to popular belief, thatch comes from grass roots not mown grass blades because the roots contain lignin, a substance that decomposes slowly causing thatch.
  • Grasscycling benefits Denver. During the growing season, up to 37% of what Denver residents put in the trash is yard debris, which is largely made up of grass clippings. When you grasscycle you dispose of less trash, saving space in the landfill. 
  • Grasscycling benefits the environment. Finally, by grasscycling you can help reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. When organic materials such as grass clippings go to landfills they decompose under anaerobic (without air) conditions that create methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. 

This summer, take your recycling efforts to the next level and try grasscycling for a few weeks to see what you think! Visit DenverGov.org/DenverRecycles for more information about grasscycling or other opportunities to create less waste.

City Tests Out “Zero Waste” Program at Denver Wastewater Building

Beginning this summer, Denver Recycles staff and facilities staff have been working diligently in order to implement one of the first ever Zero Waste programs in a municipal office building. Since most of the waste generated in office buildings can be recycled or composted, the Wastewater building at 2000 W. 3rd Ave. is aiming to prevent 75-90% of the its waste from ever reaching the landfill.  To do so, Denver employees are focusing on techniques that reduce the amount of waste generated in the first place and then diverting as much of the resulting waste stream as possible to recycle and compost.  Many of the methods employed so far at Wastewater can be easily implemented in other workplaces around Denver:

  • Conservation Techniques: Examples include making double-sided copies and encouraging employees to use reusable mugs and food containers
  • Consolidated Waste Receptacles: Zero Waste stations are placed throughout the building. These include side-by-side recycling, compost and trash receptacles that make it easy for employees to sort their waste correctly
  • Paper Towel Composting in Bathrooms: Compost isn't just for food waste.  Paper towels from hand washing create a large volume of waste coming from office buildings and are easily compostable. 
  • Mini Trash Cans Exchange: Many employees have exchanged their large 4-gallon desk-side trash cans for mini half-gallon cans that fit on top of their desks. These smaller trash cans help to make employees more aware of their personal waste generation and encourage good recycling and composting habits.
  • Zero Waste Events and Catering: Employees are encouraged to utilize responsible products and services that reduce total waste generation at events. 

Keep an eye out for ongoing information about the City and County of Denver’s  Zero Waste efforts and start thinking about the ways in which you can implement some of these tactics in your workplace. The City hopes this pilot program will lead to the expansion of this program at other City buildings and that it will set a new stand for Zero Waste throughout Denver.

Editor's Note:

The Denver Recycles’ Roundup is a periodic news column sponsored by Denver Recycles, a program of Denver Public Works/Solid Waste Management. It includes updates on seasonal and ongoing activities related to the City and County of Denver's recycling programs. Editors are invited to publish all or part of the column; however, we request that you run major edits by our staff to ensure accuracy of the information. Questions may be directed to Denver Recycles.