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5 Most Common Contaminants That Don’t Belong in Your Recycling Cart

Denver residents are great recyclers and your participation in the recycling program is helping to keep more and more materials out of the landfill each year.

Unfortunately, with more people recycling there are more non-recyclable materials (often referred to as contaminants) being placed in the Denver Recycles purple carts. Since these contaminants can be costly to sort out, we need your help in order to keep these non-recyclable materials out of your purple cart in the first place and to help spread the word to your friends, family and neighbors.

Here are the top five items that we cannot recycle in the Denver Recycles program:

  1. NO PLASTIC BAGSPlastic bags the #1 enemy of most single stream recycling processing facilities. The equipment that sorts the recyclables contains various belts and gears, and plastic bags get easily tangled in the sorting equipment. Plastic bags can be recycled at most local grocery stores where you will find bins just for plastic bag recycling.  Better yet, consider getting some reusable bags of your own. Most stores will give you a 5-cent credit for each reusable bag you use.
  2. NO COFFEE CUPS:  That’s right, those ever-present paper coffee cups or paper drink cups are not accepted for recycling. Avoid the need for getting a new paper cup when you are out enjoying your favorite latte or mocha by bringing your own reusable coffee mug. The cardboard sleeve around to-go coffee cups can be recycled.
  3. NO BATTERIES:  Residents can recycle various types of batteries (household, auto and rechargeable) by taking them to local drop-off facilities listed in the Denver Recycles’ Recycling Directory.  Please note that there may be a recycling fee at the drop-off facility depending on the type and volume of batteries you want to recycle.
  4. NO SCRAP METAL:  Only metal food and beverage containers, and aluminum foil are accepted in your purple recycling cart.  Small and large pieces of scrap metal from other materials can cause damage to the recycling processing equipment when placed in your recycling carts. Save up your scrap metal pieces and make a trip every so often to one of the many scrap metal recyclers around Denver. When scrap metal prices are good, many metal recyclers will pay you for your metals, so you might end up with a few extra dollars in your pocket.
  5. NO STYROFOAM®:   This includes foam blocks, packing foam, packing peanuts, as well as foam cups, plates, trays and bowls.

Just because a material cannot be recycled in the Denver Recycles purple carts does not mean it cannot be recycled.  Visit the online Recycling Directory for a list of alternative locations where you can take some of the materials listed above for recycling.  Additional recycling guidelines and resources can be found at

Changes to Trash Service Starting in 2016

Effective January 1, 2016 Large Item Pickup and Cart Overflow have been replaced with the NEW Extra Trash Service for all Denver residents. This service improvement is part of Solid Waste Management’s plan to help keep our neighborhoods clean as we transition toward citywide cart-based trash service.

What does this change mean for you?

Regardless of trash service type (Dumpster, Cart or Manual) extra trash may now be placed out for collection every four weeks, instead of every six weeks as before. This service change is designed to help residents more easily dispose of large items from their homes such as couches, mattresses and branches. A maximum of 5 large items will be collected per home per Extra Trash collection. In addition to a maximum of 5 large items for Extra Trash collection, residents with trash cart service may dispose of a maximum of 10 bags of extra trash (or bundles of branches) per scheduled Extra Trash collection (every four weeks)

Extra trash or large items may not be stored at the curb or in the alley on non-collection days.  Setting out extra trash on non-collection days is considered illegal dumping.

To make these programmatic changes possible, the pickup areas have changed significantly. Please pay very close attention to your home’s Extra Trash Service schedule and map. Extra Trash schedules are included on all electronic service reminders and within the Denver Trash & Recycling app. Schedules can also be found online at or by calling 311 (720-913-1311).

Here are a few quick steps for utilizing your NEW Extra Trash Service:

  1. Check the calendar and map to find your scheduled service week.
  2. Place your items out by 7 a.m. during your collection week(s).
  3. Cart and Manual customers, place items out on your normal day of trash service during your scheduled Extra Trash week. Dumpster customers, place items out on Monday of your scheduled Extra Trash week.
  4. Make sure Extra Trash items are at least 2 feet away from obstructions.

Go Green and Start Composting at Home Today!

Denver Recycles is pleased to announce that the Denver Compost program is expanding again in 2016! The Denver Composts program already keeps more than  3,000 tons of food and yard debris out of the landfill each year, and this new expansion will allow even more people to participate in the program.

When will the 2016 expansion take place?

One new compost collection route will be added in February, and two more compost routes will be added by the end of the summer. This means the compost program will be accessible to more neighborhoods and more participants than ever before.  To see if your home is now eligible for compost visit

The Denver Composts program is a fee-based service that collects residentially generated organic materials like yard debris, food and non-recyclable paper. These materials are collected weekly and taken to a commercial composting facility that turns these materials into a soil amendment known as compost.

Did you know?

Organic material is the single largest item that is thrown away by Denver households and accounts for more than 50 percent of what is taken to the landfill. Residents participating in the compost program have reported that with recycling and composting, they have been able to reduce the amount of trash they throw away by 50 to 75 percent.

To learn more about the Denver Composts program and other composting resources, visit  

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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.