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Frequently Asked Questions


Compost Service

photos of items accepted for composting


Baked goods, Bones, Bread, Cereal, Cheese, Coffee grounds, Dairy products, Eggs & eggshells, Fish, Fruits, Gravy & sauces, Meat, Nuts, Pasta, Peanut butter, Pizza, Poultry, Processed foods, Rice, Salads, Sandwiches, Spoiled or moldy food, and Vegetables


Coffee filters, Facial tissue, Greasy pizza boxes, Paper bags, Paper napkins, Non-coated paper plates, Paper towels, Tea bags, Small paper items, Plain white tissue paper, Waxed cardboard, and Wax paper


Flowers, Grass clippings, Houseplants, Leaves, Plant trimmings, Small branches (no larger than 4 feet in length and 4 inches in diameter), and Weeds


Pet hair, Wooden chopsticks, stir sticks, and popsicle sticks

Contaminates in the compost stream increases the overall processing cost and devalues the marketability of the final product.

  • NO Trash
  • NO Cartons
  • NO Clothing
  • NO Construction debris
  • NO Cooking oil or grease
  • NO Diapers
  • NO Dryer lint
  • NO Glass
  • NO Liquids
  • NO Metal
  • NO Plastics of any kind
  • NO Pet waste
  • NO Dirt, Rocks, Sand or Sod
  • NO Styrofoam
  • NO Treated or coated wood
  • NO Used toilet paper

*Please note: The materials listed above are only examples of non-accepted items in the Denver Composts program and this list is not intended as an exclusive lists of non-accepted materials.

  • image of food waste in kitchen pailWhen preparing meals or cleaning up after a meal, scrape food preparation scraps and leftovers from your plate into your kitchen pail. You can even include your paper plates, paper towels and napkins.
  • Store your kitchen pail under or in the sink or on the counter to make it easy to access while preparing food or cleaning up after a meal. Find a new spot for your garbage pail so that you have to think before you throw something away - ask yourself, "Can this be composted?"
  • When filling your kitchen pail, remember to include other items in your house that can be composted such as facial tissue, microwave popcorn bags, paper towels, popsicle sticks and all the other things found on the Accepted Items list.
  • Dump the contents of your kitchen pail into your green cart at least once a week.
  • Drain as much liquids as possible from food before putting it in your kitchen pail.
  • Rinse out your pail after you empty it or run it through the dishwasher on the top shelf to keep it clean and fresh. (WARNING: Running your pail on the bottom shelf of your dishwasher will cause the pail's lid to warp and not close properly.)
  • Line your kitchen pail with newspaper or a brown paper bag to help keep it clean. Or, purchase compostable bags to use to line your kitchen pail (see information below).

Compostable material does have a smell. It’s the same stuff you put in your garbage, but now it’s just in a different container.  Odor is often caused by too much moisture. You can minimize odor by:

  • Ensuring you set your cart out for every collection.
  • Draining as much liquid as possible from organic material.
  • Keeping your cart clean.
  • Burying your food waste underneath some yard debris.
  • Wrapping food scraps with newspaper or placing in a paper bag before putting it in your cart.
  • Freezing leftover meat and fish scraps and waiting to put them in your cart until your collection day.
  • Waiting to clean out your refrigerator until the day before your collection day, rather than the day after. 

The green composting cart is designed to be pest-resistant with thick plastic and a tight-fitting lid. Compost can attract fruit flies, so be sure to keep the lid closed. If you have problems with bugs and rodents around your trash now, you may experience some problems. If you do not currently have problems with pests, you should not experience any additional problems with your green cart.

It is the resident’s responsibility to clean their cart.  A simple rinse with the hose every couple of weeks should keep the cart clean. A great idea for cleaning your green cart is to use a broom to reach the bottom. You may also help keep your cart clean by lining it with newspaper or brown paper yard waste bags.

All branches or limbs placed in compost carts must be no longer than 4 feet in lenght, no larger than 4 inches in diameter and no more than 50 pounds per piece.

Logs, stumps and other larger yard debris materials are NOT accepted in the Denver Compost Program.

For information on dropping off larger yard debris materials visit Cherry Creek Recycling Drop-off.

Never place any plastic bags in your compost cart.

Plastic is a serious contaminant for composting.  All the compostable material is ground into fine pieces.  When plastic is in the mix, we get small pieces of plastic that are hard to remove.  Plastic is not compostable and will not break down in the composting process.

Most supermarkets in Denver take back their own bags for recycling, so check with your local store to find out if they accept plastic bags for recycling. Consider reusing your plastic bags. Many stores will give you a 5 cent credit for each bag reused.

Only Brown Paper Bags and BPI Certified Compostable Bags are allowed in the Denver Compost program.

If you choose to buy compostable bags to use in your kitchen pail or green cart, please make sure you purchase the right bags.  All bags used for compostables other than plain paper bags, must carry the official BPI logo (Biodegradable Products Institute) and be green in color to be approved for use in the composting collection program. The BPI compostable logo lets the composting collector and processor know that products with this label have been tested to ensure that they will compost quickly, completely and safely and being green in color makes it easy for the composting collector and processor to distinguish them from non-compostable plastic bags.  (Of course, newspaper and paper bags are still an easy way to keep composting cleaner and to save you money.)  Compostable bags may be purchased online and at some Whole Foods stores and Safeway stores.  Call your local store in advance to see if they carry them.  


Paper materials (such as cardboard, office paper, magazines, newspapers and cartons) that are accepted in the Denver Recycles program should be recycled instead of composted. Although some of these items are compostable in small amounts, it is significantly more environmentally beneficial to recycle paper items.

Paper that is soiled and can't be recycled should be composted, for example greasy pizza box bottoms, newspaper used to wrap fish or used paper plates.

Remember that paper plates, napkins, towels and tissues are NOT accepted for recycling in the purple cart but are accepted in the Denver Composts program.

How compost collection different from backyard composting?

The organic material collected through the composting collection program is sent to a commercial composting facility in Keenesburg, Colorado that is run by A1 Organics.  There, organic material is ground into fine pieces by an industrial grinder and then composted under controlled conditions. 

So materials that you wouldn't normally put in a backyard composting bin, such as meat, bones, processed foods and soiled paper such paper napkins, can break down quickly in a commercial composting facility and contribute to making quality compost.  After composting is complete A1 Organics performs a number of analytical tests on the compost, using an independent laboratory, to ensure the compost is a quality product before selling it.

Denver Recycles encourages you to continue backyard composting if you're already do so. You can still compost lots of materials in your backyard while putting your meat, dairy, grains, and food-soiled paper products and excess yard waste out for pick-up in your green composting cart.

There are no real environmental benefits to disposing of food waste through the wastewater system. In fact, it requires extra water usage to do so. Also, food waste can be the source of many plumbing problems. Disposing food waste through a garbage disposal increases the likelihood of clogs, especially if the food waste contains unsaturated fats, which solidify at room temperature and can build up inside pipes.

Placing food items in your green composting cart is a better alternative both environmentally and for your home.  Backyard composting is good too, just not for the meat or fat items.

Only specific types of biodegradable products actual break down in the composting process.  Products marked “planted-based” or made from plants has nothing to do with the products true compostability.

The listing below does not imply an endorsement of these products by the City & County of Denver, other than to indicate that these products meet the compostability requirements for the Denver Composts program.

Plain "Non-Glossy" Paper Plates

Available at nearly all stores. 

image of plain paper plate

Chinet® “Eco-Friendly” plates

Availabe at regular grocery stores and Costco.
mage of Chinet compostable paper plates

The organic material collected through the composting collection program is sent to a commercial composting facility in Keenesburg, Colorado that is run by
A1 Organics.  There, organic material is ground into fine pieces by an industrial grinder and then composted under controlled conditions, so it can break down quickly and contribute to making quality compost.  After composting is complete,  A1 Organics performs a number of analytical tests on the compost, using an independent laboratory, to ensure the compost is a quality product before selling it.

Denver Recycles offers a one-day sell back of bagged and unbagged compost back to Denver Residents at a discounted price each year at the Annual Mulch Giveaway & Compost Sale.

The finished compost is then sold to farmers and to retailers.  If you are interested in purchasing A1 Organics compost, it can be purchased retail from Pioneer Sand and Gravel locations or other local Class I and II Compost Suppliers.

Denver Composts, a program of the City & County of Denver Public Works Department Solid Waste Management, is only authorized to provide services to residential homes of seven or fewer units and our own municipal facilites. Denver Composts is not authorized to provide services to commercial properties such as businesses and apartment communities. 

Compost Payment Information

Compost services are $29.25 per quarter (every three months).  A discounted annual payment option of $107 is available only for participants that pre-pay for services January through December
The majority of participants choose to pay online. It saves money, paper and time! After you receive an invoice in the mail, you can submit a payment online at

Quarterly schedule is as follows: 1st Quarter is January to March; 2nd Quarter is April to June; 3rd Quarter is July to September; and 4th Quarter is October to December. The $107.00 Discounted annual payment option is available for accounts with services January through December only.

Please note, if services are cancelled for non-payment the resident is responsible for contacting Solid Waste Manage to notify of payments submitted and arranging for services to be restored.

Invoices can are are only mailed to the physical property (address) where the services is being provided. The current billing system for the Denver Composts program does not allow for invoices to be sent to secondary mailing addresses or sent by email.

Compost payment made on credit cards show up as "CITY&CTYOFDENVERONLINE 720-913-9306 CO"  

Residents may submit their compost payments online by credit card (Visa, MasterCard or Discover) or mail in payments by check.  Autopayments are NOT currently available for the compost collection program.

The highest rate of compost payment errors generally occurs when residents improperly set up payment through the online Bill Pay system with their banking institution. When a payment is made through your bank’s Bill Pay system, the payment is NOT sent electronically to the City. Instead, the bank prints a check and sends it out in the mail. These checks arrive without the payment slip, so any incorrect information can result in the payment getting misdirected or improperly processed. When this occurs, Denver Solid Waste Management records might not show that any payment has been received.

If you decide to make your compost payment through your bank’s Bill Pay system, be sure to:

  • Fill out the entire address and Department Number (Denver Composts, 201 W. Colfax Ave., Dept. 611, Denver, CO 80202)
  • Make payable to “Manager of Finance” (not “Denver Composts”)
  • Include your compost account number
  • Enter the correct payment amount

Following the steps above will help to ensure that your compost payment is received and properly entered.

graphic of a moving truckPlease be sure to contact Solid Waste Management prior to moving to update your account status. Outdated account information could result in you continuing to be billed for services, payments made under the wrong account number or lost compost carts.


If you are moving to a new address within Denver, your account and payments can easily be transferred to the new address by contacting Solid Waste Management.


If you are moving out of town or just want to cancel compost serves, please contact Solid Waste Management to close out your account. 

Contact Solid Waste Management at 311 (720-913-1311) or


If your compost services have been cancelled and you wish to restore services, please contact Solid Waste Management at 311 (720-913-1311) or
Please note, if service are cancelled for non-payment the resident is responsible for contacting Solid Waste Manage to notify of payments submitted and arranging for services to be restored.

When enrolling for compost collection service the resident hereby agrees to pay quarterly payments of $29.25; understands that no part of the service fee is guaranteed to be refunded when services are cancelled for any reason; agrees to contact the City & County of Denver prior to cancelling or transferring services; acknowledges that the green compost cart remains the property of the City and County of Denver; and acknowledges that the green compost cart may be removed for failure to make service payments or if its use is deemed inappropriate by the City & County of Denver.

To Pay By Mail (Check):

  1. Fill out the payment slip at the bottom of your mailed invoice and send in with your check**
  2. Make your check payable to “Manager of Finance”
  3. Write your account number in the memo line of your check
  4. Send in a stamped envelope to:

Denver Composts

201 W. Colfax Ave.

Dept. 611

Denver, CO 80202

**A $50 fee will be applied to bounced checks and then sent to the City’s collection agency.


Your compost account number will appear on your mailed invoice.

To look up your compost account number online visit Your Pickup Schedule, enter your home address and look for your account number in the gray box area just above the blue “Get a Reminder!” button.

If you are unable to determine your compost account number, please 311 (720-913-1311) or email


Quick Links

How To Use Your Kitchen Pail (8 sec. video)