Denver’s Pay-as-You-Throw garbage collection service is set to be enacted later this year, but council members worry education and awareness are lacking
On Tuesday, members of the Denver City Council’s Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee received an hour-long briefing on the city’s proposed pay-as-you-go changes to its service. garbage collection. It was the second briefing before this body in recent weeks on the long-running trash changes.
Most city residents won’t have nearly that level of access to officials who will implement the change – if the council votes to pass it next month – and that’s a concern for some. council members.
How much outreach will be done? Will it be an ongoing effort? After all, residents could face fines if they intentionally put trash in their recycling bins under the new program.
Members of the city’s Department of Infrastructure and Transportation met with community groups and gave presentations on the proposed changes, officials said Tuesday. The idea is that these groups will help spread the word in the community.
If the new program is adopted, garbage collection services would no longer be free in the city. Residents would pay between $9 and $21 per month depending on the size of the trash can they need, 35 gallons, 65 gallons or 95 gallons. Recycling would continue to be free with weekly collections instead of every two weeks and composting would also be free. The focus is on diverting more waste from city landfills to help reduce methane emissions and fight climate change. The city’s current diversion rate — 26% — is lower than the national average of 34%, officials said.
Specific questions about garbage collection can be directed through the city’s 311 phone line. If 311 operators don’t have an answer, they will call the city’s waste-specific customer service line, said Art Mejia, Denver’s director of solid waste management.
Council President Stacie Gilmore does not think this is a satisfactory solution.
“If we’re as committed as we say we are as a city and our values are that we want to move to volume-based pricing, it doesn’t seem fair and just to our Denver residents that we have a strong awareness campaign. and education that is not only achieved now, but in the long term,” she said.
Gilmore wants to see a detailed education plan around the changes. She asked that when city staff bring the proposal back to the committee for a formal vote in the coming weeks, they have a flowchart showing how customer questions will be handled.
Mejia mentioned that he personally traveled to the Montbello area of the Gilmore neighborhood to give a presentation to Spanish-speaking residents. Gilmore applauded the effort, but wondered how sustainable that kind of awareness would be once the program kicks off. Gilmore would like the town to hire some help.
A majority of council members have already expressed their willingness to adopt the program next month. Billing and pickup changes for waste and recycling would begin in October if this happens. The free composting service is expected to begin in January after the city acquires more trucks, Mejia said.
District 6 Councilman Paul Kashmann shared Gilmore’s concerns about education and publicity plans around the changes.
“This program is not enough,” Kashmann said. “.. if we drop barrels and send postcards, I don’t think that will get us anywhere near what we need.”
He also asked if the existing municipal staff are prepared to handle the outreach work they deem necessary.
Councilwoman Robin Kniech has worked on overhauling garbage collection in the city for nearly all of her more than 11 years on council. She believes there is more to the education and awareness plan than was covered in Tuesday’s briefing and plans to share more information on how city staff will communicate the changes when the program will come back to the committee.
“I think we heard some new ideas today that will help strengthen the plan,” she said.