Going Beyond the Purple Cart

Have you ever wondered where your recyclables go once they’re picked up by Denver Recycles’ trucks? After collection, the contents of your purple carts are taken to the City’s contracted recycling processor, Waste Management’s Material Recovery Facility (MRF) located in north Denver. At this facility, an impressive combination of workers and machinery sort all recyclables into various streams of papers, plastics, metals and glass. Large quantities of the sorted materials are then compressed and baled into large cubes weighing more than one ton each.  The cubes are then transported off site via either rail or truck, sold as commodities on the open market, and eventually made back into new products and packaging. For example, the used aluminum cans you throw in your recycle cart can be back on a store shelf as a recycled content aluminum can in as little as 60 days!

Processing many thousands of pounds of materials each day is no small task. People and technology must work side by side to keep the sorting process running smoothly. While many of the technologies utilized by the MRF are impressive, machines can’t do everything. Each day, workers manually screen incoming materials off conveyor belts at lightning speed.  It is a difficult and fast-paced job, but these dedicated employees make it look easy. 

In order to get the cleanest, highest value recyclables as possible and to help keep the recycling facility employees safe, please remember the following tips:

  • DO Empty and lightly rinse all containers and cartons before placing them in your recycling cart.
  • DO Flatten all cardboard boxes
  • DO Reference the acceptable recyclables list located on the Denver Recycles website.
  • DO NOT Bag your recyclables. Instead, keep all materials loose in your recycling cart
  • DO NOT Place any plastic bags, plastic film or plastic foam in your recycling cart
  • NO NEED TO Flatten paper milk and juice cartons, cans or bottles. 

For more information about the Denver Recycles program, visit DenverGov.org/DenverRecycles.

Denver Composts Expands in 2015!

Denver Recycles is excited to announce that the Denver Composts program is doubling in size in 2015, bringing cart-based composting to double the number of participants!  
That’s right - with two new routes adding to the two existing routes, the Denver Composts program is now accessible to more neighborhoods and more participants than ever before.  Since organic material is the single largest item that is thrown away by Denver households, this expansion will help to keep tons of material out of our landfill (literally, TONS!). 

While the program is expanding, its growth is slow and compost collection service is not yet offered citywide. To find out if your home is eligible for this fee-based collection service, simply visit DenverGov.org/DenverRecycles, or call 311 (720-913-1311). 

Similar to Denver’s recycling program, Denver Composts is a cart-based program. Unlike recycling, however, Denver Composts is fee-based, and Denver residents in eligible compost areas pay a monthly rate of $9.75 for the weekly collection of organic materials. If your household doesn’t generate enough material to fill a green cart each week, consider sharing the service with your neighbors.  

Materials collected in the green compost carts include yard debris, food, and non-recyclable paper such as food soiled paper, napkins, and paper towels.   The contents of the green compost carts are taken to a commercial processing facility and turned into a soil amendment know as compost. 

As the single largest stream of materials thrown away by Denver households, organic materials make up more than 50 percent of what is taken to the landfill. Regardless of whether your home falls within the Denver Composts service area, backyard composting is still a great way for all Denver residents to reduce the amount of organic materials sent to Denver’s landfills

If your home already has backyard composting and you’re eligible for the collection service, the Denver Composts cart is a great supplement, and can take the materials that don’t go in your backyard system. Whether you live in a house or in an apartment, there’s a compost system that can work for your home. Keep an eye out for the 2015 schedule of free FREE Learn to Compost Classes classes offered by Denver Recycles and Denver Urban Gardens. The full list of classes will be available at DenverGov.org/DenverRecycles.

Get to Know Your Recycling Truck

Transporting recyclable materials from your purple cart to the recycling sorting facility is a very important part of the recycling process. To do so, each of the sixteen Denver Recycles trucks collect thousands of pounds of recyclable materials from Denver homes each week and averages about 1,000 cart collections each day! 

These speedy and efficient collections are made possible in part due to our special automated collection trucks. The cart collection trucks are considered automated because a hydraulic arm mechanism on the truck is able to lift the carts off the ground, turn the carts upside down to dump recyclables, and then return the carts back to the ground.  The driver uses a joystick located in the cab of the truck to control the movement of the hydraulic arm.  This automated lifting mechanism not only helps to prevent worker injuries, it also enables a greater number of carts to be collected daily.

In addition to these efficient trucks, Denver Recycles can also rely on a talented team of drivers that safely and proficiently maneuver Denver’s streets and alleys each day. To make cart collections even smoother and easier for drivers, please be sure to follow these simple guidelines:

1. Provide at least 2 feet of space on either side of your cart when setting it out for collection.  

2. Place all recyclables inside the purple carts. Extra items such as cardboard stacked on the ground next to your cart will not get collected.

3. Make sure the cart is facing out to the street or alley, with the wheels closest to the property. 

On your next collection day, don’t forget to keep an eye out for your recycling truck to see how it works.

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.