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Recycling Service Guidelines

Please follow these service guidelines for participation in the Denver Recycles program. Call 3-1-1 or e-mail if you need further assistance.

Recycling is free to all City of Denver Solid Waste Management customers.
Click here to: SIGN UP FOR RECYCLING service.

Place only items listed on our What Can Be Recycled list in your recycling cart.

Please do not overfill your cart or stack materials on or around it, as this can cause litter.  Materials left outside the cart, including cardboard, will not be collected for recycling, because the mechanical arm on our truck can only grab and lift recycling carts.

Please flatten and break down cardboard boxes into pieces no larger than 2 ft. x 2 ft. before putting them in your recycling cart.  Breaking down your cardboard boxes will help maximize the space in your cart and our trucks and prevent cardboard from getting jammed in your recycling cart. 

If you prefer, you may lay cardboard flat in a stack across the top of your recycling cart and then close the lid on top. Just be sure that the lid closes to at least a 45-degree angle and that it is not an extremely windy day.  Cardboard left outside of your recycling cart will not be collected for recycling, as the automated arm on the recycling truck can only pick up and empty recycling carts.

Recycle food and beverage cartons in the Denver Recycles program.  Please empty all liquids and food and remove plastic caps and straws (they are not accepted for recycling).  Do not flatten cartons before recycling.

Examples of accepted items:

  • Milk (dairy, soy and almond)
  • Juice
  • Cream
  • Egg white and egg substitute
  • Soup and broth
  • Protein drinks
  • Eggnog
  • Wine
  • Tofu
  • Small juice boxes
  • Ice cream and frozen yogurt

Materials not accepted:

  • Juice pouches
  • Take-out cartons
  • Paper cups
  • Paper plates

Learn more about how cartons are recycled...

Get answers to frequently asked questions about carton recycling...


Recycle rigid plastic bottles, jugs, jars, tubs, cups, trays and containers marked with the # 1 through #7 in the recycling symbols in the Denver Recycles program.  Please empty all liquids and food when possible. Remove plastic caps and lids and foil tops; they are not accepted for recycling.

Examples of acceptable items:

  • Soda, water, shampoo, and soap bottles
  • Milk, detergent and cat litter jugs
  • Yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese and butter tubs
  • Peanut butter and mayo jars
  • "To-go" or "take out" plastic drinking cups
  • Plastic trays like those used for microwave dinners
  • "Clam-shell" containers like those used to package strawberries, blueberries and bakery cookies
  • Plastic containers like those used to package salad mixes

Materials not accepted:

  • NO Plastic bags
  • NO Plastic lids or caps
  • NO Styrofoam
  • NO Shrink wrap
  • NO Toys
  • NO Tubes
  • NO "K-cups" or individual coffee creamers (too small to process)
  • NO Plastics marked as “PLA”, compostable, or made from plant based materials
  • NO Plastic containers larger than 3 gallons in size

Maximize space in your cart by flattening all cardboard boxes and then lay them flat across the top of the rest of your recyclables and then close the lid.  This will help ensure that cardboard doesn't get stuck in your cart and will enable you to fit more cardboard in your cart.

 If you still regularly have significant amounts of extra recycling that will not fit in your cart, then call 311 or email to see about "UPSIZING" to a larger recycling cart. 

Each recycling cart has a unique serial number and each unique serial number is assigned to a specific address.
The recycling cart serial number is printed on the front of each cart in white numbering. 
  • For carts starting with "05" through "13" (65 gallon carts) and then a space, the last five numbers are the cart's serial number.  For example in this photo to the right the cart serial number would be "78739."
  • For carts starting with "95" (95 gallon carts) and then a space, the six numbers after the 95 are the cart's serial number. For example a cart reading "95 912345" the cart serial number would be "912345."

To find out your cart serial number call 311 (913-1311) or email

All trash, recycling and compost carts must be stored on your property in between collections. You may set your carts out as early as the night before your collection day and then return your carts to your property within a day after collection occurs.

Keep carts out of the alley and off the streets will:

  • Ensure each neighbor takes responsibility for their own waste and carts
  • Ensure each neighbor has access to the public right-of-way
  • Improve the appearance of the alley
  • Prevent cart loss or damage, and misuse or vandalism to the carts
  • Minimize recycling and compost contamination (non-acceptable items can contaminate entire loads)
  • Reduce litter and the potential for illegal dumping
  • Discourage waste scavengers in your neighborhood

It is your responsibility to manage and care for your city-issued carts. Take pride in your neighborhood and bring your carts back. 

Denver Recycles reserves the right to remove recycling carts that are improperly used. Improper use includes trash in carts, carts left in the public right-of-way (including the alley), abuse or destruction of carts outside of normal wear and tear, and uses deemed inappropriate by the City.

The time a driver arrives to empty your recycling cart depends on many factors and may not always be  the same. This is why it is important to set out your cart by no later than 7 AM, as it ensures your cart will be ready for collection no matter what time in the day the driver comes.  Carts may be set out as early as the night prior to your collection day and should be returned to your property within a day after collection has occurred.

We provide every other week collection.  Call 311 or visit View My Service Schedule to determine your recycling collection schedule.

In order for Denver Recycles automated truck to be able to empty your cart, it must be set out in the correct location.  To learn where to set your cart on your service days, look up your address at View My Service Schedule or call 311.


Place your cart in the street with its wheels up against the curb and the front of the cart facing the street. Leave at least 2 feet from any obstructions.



Place your cart in the alley with the front of your cart facing towards the alley and at least 2 feet from any obstructions, including your garage, dumpsters or cars.  Do not block access to your neighbors' driveway, gate or garage.

  • Dumpster-side alley set out - Place your cart on the same side of the alley that the trash dumpsters are located.
  • Even-sided alley set out - Place your cart on the side of the alley with even numbered addresses.
  • Odd-side alley set out - Place your cart on the side of the alley with odd numbered addresses.

DAMAGED CART:  If your cart is damaged, please call 311 or email to request a replacement or repair.  

LOST OR MISSING CART:  If your purple recycling cart has gone missing after your collection:
Please check the service area to make sure your cart has not simply rolled away a few feet from your normal collection point.
  1. You may use your assigned cart's serial number to help locate which cart is yours.
  2. Check with your neighbors to see if they mistakenly pulled in your recycling cart.
  3. Call 311 to let us know your cart is missing, so we can order you a replacement recycling cart.
Please do not sign up online as a “New Customer” to order a replacement recycling cart.  This may result in a greater delay in getting you a replacement recycling cart.

To find out your cart serial number call  311 (913-1311) or email


  1. Find out your recycling service information at View My Service Schedule.
  2. Sign up for recycling services at New Customer Signup.  Be sure to check the box if you already have a recycling cart at your address and do not need one delivered.
  3. There is no charge for recycling services provided by Denver Solid Waste Management, with the exception of the composting collection service (green carts) which is a fee based program.
  4. If you have a large amount of leftover moving boxes, please contact us to make arrangements for a special cardboard recycling collection.


  1. Contact us prior to your move so we can update the account information.
  2. Leave any City issued containers behind.  Black trash barrels, purple recycling carts, and green composting carts are the property of the City & County of Denver.  Each barrel and cart is assigned by serial numbers to an exact address.
  3. Bring all containers back onto your property before you move.  Do not leave containers in the street or alley.
  4. Take any personal trash containers with you.

NOTES:  Denver Solid Waste Management only services residential homes of seven or fewer units that are located in the City and County of Denver.  If you reside in a larger apartment or condominium property, please contact your landlord or HOA for collection information.

Approximate cart measurements are as follows:

65 gallon=Weighs 32 lbs

      Height = 42”, Width = 27”, Depth = 32”

95 gallon=Weighs 40 lbs

       Height = 46”, Width = 30”, Depth = 36”


Replacement Decal for Recycling Cart Lid

Has time and weather washed out or made it hard to read the decal on the lid of your recycling cart? If so, we can mail you an updated decal that you can apply to your purple cart.

To get a recycling cart lid decal, complete the online request or call 311 (720-913-1311).


Please do not place any plastic bags in your recycling cart. The equipment that sorts the recyclables contains various belts and gears, and plastic bags easily get tangled around this equipment causing damage and slowing down the sorting process. Please do not put plastic bags in your recycling cart.

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.

If a plastic item doesn't have a recycling number on the bottom, how do I know what kind of plastic it is?

The resin identification code isn't required by federal law and is absent from some pieces of plastic, especially those that aren't easily recyclable, like dishes, toys or bottle caps.

Remember, only plastic containers with a resin code of #1 through #7 on it, are is accepted for recycling in the Denver Recycles program.