Here in the Mile High City we are lucky that Denver  offers single stream recycling which means, they do the heavy lifting by sorting our recyclables. Denver residents do a good job of keeping the recycling stream clean, but there is always room for improvement. We’ve compiled some of the most common mistakes, along with some general rules to keep this process streamlined. When people recycle right, it makes the whole process more efficient, which in the end is better for the planet.

  The most common mistake is to throw an item in your recycling cart and think “is this recyclable?” If you’re ever unsure if a material belongs in your purple recycle cart, it’s best to double-check or just throw it in the trash. Even though the goal is to recycle as much as possible it’s important to remember that quality is just as important as quantity.


Here’s why quality counts when it comes to the materials going into your recycle cart:

• Sorting non-recyclable material from the rest of your recyclables is difficult for the recycling facility. It’s labor and time-intensive, and it’s costly.

• Non-recyclable items, such as plastic bags and scrap metal, in your purple cart can damage sorting equipment and reduce the quality of other recyclables in your cart.

It’s important to provide manufacturers with a clean, high-quality  supply of materials.


The most common contaminants found in recycle carts are: Clothing, Food, Napkins, Non-rigid plastics (toothpaste tubes), Paper towels, Plastic bags, Scrap metal, Styrofoam, Tanglers (cords, hangers), Yard debris. NEVER place these items in your purple recycle cart.


Quick Tips for Recycling Correctly:

• Read up! Know what to recycle  by reviewing Denver’s recycle guidelines online. A quick review goes a long way!

• Be a star recycler, not a wishcycler! We all probably know at least one wishcycler, which is a person who places items in their recycle cart because they wish the items were recyclable, think the items might be recyclable or think the items should be recyclable. To all the wishcyclers out there, even the best of intentions do not make up for the fact that some materials just don’t belong in Denver’s purple carts. Items that are not accepted in the  recycle carts are considered contaminants and ultimately make recycling harder for the sorting facility. When in doubt, throw it out.

• Practice makes perfect. Fortunately, Denver Recycles has a fun and interactive way for you to put your skills to the test. The Denver Recycles Waste Sorting Game is available on the Denver Recycles website and the Denver Trash and Recycling app!


Fun Recycling Facts:

Denver Recycles noticed our crazy coffee habit and is now accepting paper cups (hot and cold) for recycling! Keep these guidelines in mind, and remember, a reusable cup is so much better than a paper cup. 

• You can only recycle EMPTY cups.

• Cardboard sleeves are recyclable but must be separated from the cup.

• Throw lids, straws, and plastic stirrers in your trash cart.

• Styrofoam cups are not accepted in your purple recycle cart.


Did you know that the glass you place in your purple cart is turned into new bottles right here in Colorado? All glass placed in your recycle cart is turned into glass cullet at Momentum Recycling in Broomfield. And that cullet is sent to bottling companies and made into new glass bottles at two bottle manufacturers right here in Colorado. Close the glass loop by always recycling your glass and buying products in recyclable glass.  

  Ultimately the best thing we can do is quit buying single-use plastic all together. Bring reusable bags to shop, and make it your goal to quit buying water in plastic bottles. These habits of course take time and effort, so in the meantime, do your best to recycle right! 

  For more information about Denver’s recycling and composting programs, and all other services offered by Denver Recycles, visit DenverGov.org/DenverRecycles or call 311 (720-913-1311).

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