How will the proposed zoning change affect individual households?

There would be an increase in the amount of solid waste.

By how much?

The EPA reports nationwide generation of solid waste is 4.51 pounds per person per day. For a family of 4 this equates to 126 pounds per week. If an additional five persons occupied the same residence, the solid waste generation would be 284 pounds per week, a 225% increase.

Will the current trash cart system be sufficient to handle the added solid waste?

Not as it is presently structured. The largest city trash carts are 65 gallons and hold 5 tall kitchen bags of trash. The average waste per person is 1.25 bags per week. A family of 4 produces 5 tall kitchen bags of waste per week, A nine person household would produce 11.25 kitchen bags  per week. Since the trash cart has only a 5 kitchen bag capacity, there would be 6.15 bags of uncollected trash.

What will happen to the uncollected trash?

It will have to be stored on site and wait for the extra collection Day, which is every 8 weeks.

How much trash will be accumulated in that time frame?

With 9 people per household, let’s suppose that a 65 gallon trash cart can be stuffed with 7 bags for each scheduled pick up day rather than the normal 5 bags. That leaves 4.5 bags uncollected per week. Over 8 weeks, 36 kitchen sized tall bags would be accumulated. That’s equivalent to the capacity of 6 city supplied trash carts.

Will the extra trash cause problems between pick-ups?

Yes, very likely. The bags will contain garbage and maybe disposable diapers and pet waste. Extra trash will likely be stored outside. After 8 weeks of sitting outside, perhaps sitting in direct sunlight, the organic waste will start to decompose, generate odors and attract insects, raccoons, skunks, stray dogs, foxes, coyotes, rats, mice. Insects and animals may carry and transmit disease to humans.

How will this extra waste be collected?

The city’s extra waste collection program occurs once every 8 weeks. So, if a home has 36 tall kitchen bags to dispose of, a contractor size trash bag can hold maybe three of them at a time. Then there would be 12 contractor size trash bags to be picked up.

Doesn’t the City limit the number of extra trash items to 10?

Yes. So, 2 bags wouldn’t be picked up. Someone with extra trash may use a neighbor’s trash cart or set out the extra trash in front a neighbor’s house. Perhaps the city trash crew might pick up the extra trash. 

Would the city provide an extra trash cart at no cost to the home owner?

I don’t think that the city has considered the impact of an increase in solid waste generation through this zoning change. To provide free carts, there would have to be a budget increase.

If there are a substantial number of homes needing extra trash collection, it may overwhelm normal trash collection cycles. Trash collection trucks may have to make multiple trips to a transfer station, which would increase both the time to collect the trash and increase the subsequent related costs. We are currently seeing this with increased trash quantities due to more people cooking at home rather than eating out because of Covid-19 outbreak.


NOTE: These calculations and observations include current recycling and composting options.

David Bufalo is the former Director of Design and Construction Management Division in the Department of Public Works, which managed the design and construction of the City’s buildings. During his tenure with the City, he was also the Acting Director of the Building Inspection Division, also known as the Building Department, for ten months. The Building Department was responsible for enforcing the Denver Building Code. Mr. Bufalo is a licensed professional engineer in the states of Colorado and Missouri.

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