Recycling Service

Denver expanded solid waste services in 2023 with a new fee based on trash cart size. Weekly recycling and invoicing began in January and compost service will rollout starting in summer 2023. Rebates are available based on income and household size.
Learn more about services, fees and rebates

Use the Waste Directory below to determine where an item should be disposed of appropriately.

On average, Denverites recycle only 63% of the recyclable waste generated by their household each year. Making small recycling changes can make a huge difference!




Are businesses and apartments eligible for recycling services?

Solid Waste Management, a department of the City & County of Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, is only authorized to provide services to residential homes of seven or fewer units and our own municipal facilities.  Solid Waste Management cannot provide services to commercial properties such as businesses and apartment communities.

How should I set out cardboard for recycling collection?

Cardboard recycling steps:

  1. Flatten and break down all cardboard boxes into pieces no larger than 2 feet by 2 feet. This will help make sure the cardboard isn't taking up usable space in the cart. 
  2. Place your cardboard inside of the recycle cart - not against it or on the ground. Cardboard left outside of your recycling cart will not get recycled, even if it is flattened and stacked next to your cart. Instead, it will either be left behind or picked up as extra trash and sent to the landfill.
  3. OR leave cardboard out of your cart until your recycling day. On your recycling day, lay it flat in the cart on top of the rest of your recyclables and close the lid to at least a 45 degree angle. This will help ensure that your cardboard doesn’t get stuck in the cart and will enable you to fit more cardboard in your purple cart.


  • Clean pizza boxes are okay to recycle. Greasy pizza boxes should not go in your purple cart.
  • Following these simple guidelines maximize space in your cart, prevents cardboard from getting jammed in your cart, ensures all your cardboard is recycled, and increases the efficiency of our collections so that we can better serve you.

What are the benefits of recycling?

Conserves Natural Resources:

  • The average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees. This amounts to about 2 billion trees per year! [“50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save The Earth” by The Earth Work Group]
  • More than 100 million trees’ worth of bulk mail arrives in American mailboxes each year.  That’s the equivalent of deforesting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every four months. [Rocky Mountain News, 4/21/07]

Lowers Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

  • If an average family of four were to recycle all of its mixed plastic waste, nearly 340 pounds of carbon equivalent emissions could be reduced each year.  [U.S. EPA]
  • Currently, the U.S. recycles approximately 32 percent of its waste which saves an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases to removing 39.6 million cars from the road.  Increasing the recycling rate to 35 percent would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 5.2 Million Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent.  [U.S. EPA]
  • Recycling all of its office paper waste for one year, an office building of 7,000 workers could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 546 Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent. This is the equivalent to taking nearly 400 cars off the road that year. [U.S. EPA]

Reduce Need for Landfills

  • Enough plastic bottles are thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. [“The Recycler’s Handbook” by Earth Work Group]
  • Recycling one ton of aluminum saves approximately 10 cubic yards of landfill space. [U.S. EPA]  

Saves Energy

  • Making new aluminum cans from used cans takes 95 percent less energy than making cans from raw aluminum bauxite ore. [Reynolds Metal Company
  • One ton of recycled office paper saves approximately: 4,100 Kwh of energy; 9 barrels of oil; or 54 million BTU's of energy.  [U.S. EPA]  

Reduces Air & Groundwater Pollution

  • Recycling glass reduces related air pollution by 20% and water pollution by 50%. [Glass Packaging Institute]
  • Recycling one ton of newsprint saves an estimated 7,000 gallons of water.  [U.S. EPA]
  • Recycling benefits the air and water by creating a net reduction in ten major categories of air pollutants and eight major categories of water pollutants. [National Recycling Coalition]

Creates Jobs and Reduces Disposal Costs:

  • Public sector investment in local recycling programs pays great dividends by creating private sector jobs. For every job collecting recyclables, there are 26 jobs in processing the materials and manufacturing them into new products.  [National Recycling Coalition]
  • Recycling creates 1.1 million U.S. jobs, $236 billion in gross annual sales and $37 billion in annual payrolls. [National Recycling Coalition] 

If a plastic item has a recycling symbol on it, is it recyclable?

Not necessarily! The recycling symbol represents the general category of plastic that material is made from, but does not mean the item is recyclable here in Denver. Generally, we can accept plastic containers like bottles, tubs, jugs, and jars. If it's not a container, it likely cannot go in the recycling. 

Plastics vary greatly by their resin types and how they are manufactured.  There are also two common manufacturing processes: plastic bottles are “blow molded,” whereas, most plastic tubs are “injection molded.”  As a result of the different resin types, the different manufacturing processes, and the different mixes of chemical additives, (dyes, plasticizers, UV inhibitors, softeners, adhesives and more) plastics melt at different temperatures, have different physical properties, and as such need to be recycled differently.

Once plastics are separated into their varying categories they must then be shipped to a recycler.  The distance to these plastic markets can be large and the cost to ship certain types of plastic to distant processing facilities may simply be more expensive than the material’s value.  Some markets are very limited and are overstocked with plastics for recycling. All of these parts of the recycling process can affect a city's ability to accept certain plastics.

How clean should my items be for recycling?

Denver Recycles asks residents to make sure that bottles, jars, pie tins, and other containers are empty before putting them in with your recycling. Containers do not need to be completely free of all food residue. Generally, a quick rinse is sufficient. Thicker food residue in containers, like peanut butter jars, might need a little more rinsing or even a wiping out of the food residue. As long as containers are empty and free of most food residue they are acceptable for recycling.