A Guide to Recycling in Denver, CO

Denver’s recycling program is committed to diverting waste from landfills and creating a more sustainable future. However, unlike climbing a straightforward mountain trail, recycling rules can vary due to factors like processing capabilities and market demand. Therefore, always double-check the Denver Recycles website for the latest information and specific instructions.

Denver's Recyclables:

Now, let’s tackle common items and their recycling fate in Denver, but remember to always rely on the Denver Recycles website for the most accurate information.

Paper & Cardboard:

  • Newspaper, magazines, cardboard boxes: Yes! Flatten cardboard and remove plastic inserts or tape.
  • Pizza boxes: Yes, but with conditions. They must be free of excessive grease and food residue, with any cheese or toppings removed.
  • Paper towels, tissues, napkins: No. These are contaminated and not accepted in curbside recycling.
  • Gift wrap, greeting cards: Depends. If they contain glitter, foil, or lamination, they’re not recyclable. Opt for eco-friendly alternatives!


  • Plastic bottles and jugs: Yes! They must be clean, dry, and have a recycling symbol between 1 and 7. Check the website for colored plastics guidelines.
  • Food containers: Generally no. Unless they are rigid, clean, and have the #5 recycling symbol, they should go in the trash.
  • Plastic bags and wraps: No. Look for designated drop-off locations like grocery stores or utilize reuse options.
  • Plastic utensils, straws, coffee stirrers: No. These are too small and flimsy for Denver’s facilities.


  • Aluminum cans: Yes! Rinse and remove any food residue.
  • Tin cans: Yes. Clean them thoroughly before recycling.
  • Aerosol cans: Only if completely empty and punctured. Follow specific instructions on the Denver Recycles website.
  • Metal foil, aluminum trays: Yes, if clean and flattened.


  • Glass bottles and jars: Yes! Rinse them, remove labels and lids, and sort by color as instructed on the website.
  • Broken glass: No. Take it to designated drop-off facilities for safe disposal.
  • Pyrex dishes, drinking glasses: No. These are not made from the accepted glass type. Consider donating or reusing them.

Mattresses and Box Springs:

These bulky items require special handling and processing. However, you still have responsible disposal options:

  • Recycling Facilities: Several recycling facilities in the Denver metro area accept mattresses and box springs for a fee. One of Denver’s recycling facility for mattresses and box spring is Spring Back Colorado.
  • Donation: If your mattress or box spring is still in good condition, consider donating it to a local charity or organization that helps people in need.
  • Reupholstering: If you’re handy or want to upcycle your mattress, consider reupholstering it for a fresh look and extended life.
  • Disposal Services: At Total Disposal we can handle the mattresses and box spring in one of dumpsters for a small fee. Contact us today and we will walk you through the process. 


Electronic waste, or e-waste, poses a unique challenge in the recycling world. Thankfully, Denver offers several options for responsible disposal of your unwanted TVs and computers:

Denver E-Cycle Program:

  • Residents can utilize the Denver E-cycle Program to recycle various electronics, including TVs and computers, at significantly discounted rates.
  • Drop-off location: Blue Star Recyclers (953 Decatur St, Suite C, Denver, CO 80204)
  • Requirements: Denver residents only. Proof of address and E-cycle coupon code required.
  • Cost: Discounted fees depending on item type. Obtain your coupon code online or call 311 (720-913-1311).

2. Retail Take-Back Programs:

  • Many major electronics retailers like Best Buy, Staples, and Microsoft offer free e-waste recycling programs for most household electronics, regardless of brand or purchase location.
  • Details: Contact your preferred retailer for specific guidelines and accepted items.
  • Cost: Usually free, but may vary depending on item type and retailer policy.

3. Sustainability Electronics Recycling:

  • This local company accepts various e-waste, including TVs and computers, for a fee.
  • Website: SustainAbility Recycling
  • Locations: Arvada and Broomfield
  • Cost: Varies depending on item type and quantity.

4. Other Options:

  • Call2Recycle: Offers battery and electronics recycling drop-off locations throughout the Denver metro area. Check their website for details: 
  • Donation: If your electronics are still functional, consider donating them to schools, non-profit organizations, or individuals in need.

Common Misconceptions about Recycling in Denver:

All plastics are recycled in Denver

Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Many plastic bags, wraps, and utensils are too small or flimsy for Denver’s sorting facilities. Stick to rigid plastic bottles and jugs with recycling symbols 1-7 for curbside recycling. Check the Denver Recycles website for detailed information on accepted plastics.

Pizza boxes don't need any cleaning

While cardboard pizza boxes are generally accepted, excessive grease and food residue can contaminate the entire recycling stream. Scrape off any large food remnants and remove cheese or toppings stuck to the box before recycling.

I can recycle anything with the recycling symbol

The recycling symbol alone is not enough. It represents the material type, but not necessarily its recyclability in Denver. Always double-check the Denver Recycles website for specific guidelines based on the item’s material, shape, and any additional markings like numbers or symbols.

Recycling contaminated items is okay

Contaminated items, like greasy pizza boxes or food-filled cans, can ruin an entire batch of recyclables. Take the extra effort to clean and prepare your items as instructed to ensure they get recycled effectively.

Recycling doesn't make a difference

Every recycled item makes a positive impact! Recycling conserves resources, reduces landfill waste, and even creates jobs in the processing industry. By making informed choices and following Denver’s program guidelines, we can collectively contribute to a more sustainable future

Empowering Change

Recycling is a vital step towards a more sustainable future, but it’s an ongoing journey. By understanding your local program, making informed choices, and advocating for better recycling infrastructure, we can collectively tackle the waste challenge and create a greener tomorrow. Remember, every recycled item makes a difference!

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