What can I recycle in Denver? A handy guide to not doing it wrong

Let’s review some of the most popular disallowed items and what you can do to keep them out of our landfills.

A woman recycles in Seattle, circa 1985. (Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr)
Various waste bins in Lincoln Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) trash; garbage; recycling; lincoln park; kevinjbeaty; denverite; denverite; colorado;
Learn our ways. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Everybody loves recycling. Some plastic can be recycled. Therefore, everybody should recycle all plastic, right? Wrong. That’s not how the transitive property works.

Let’s review some of the most popular items that are not allowed in Denver’s recycling bins, and I’ll tell you how you can recycle them anyway. These rules are worth obeying because they minimize the extra work and expense of the city’s recycling program.

The big list of “Can I put this in my purple bin?”

These are drawn from this handy city database and some independent research. You still may want to call ahead to verify. This article was updated on 10/5/16. Email me with questions and additions.

Tell your friends! Don’t have friends? Memorize this list and drop it into casual conversation at work — works like a charm!

Grocery bags:

Plastic grocery bags: No! However, nearly every major grocer will accept these, including: Albertson’s, King Soopers, Safeway, Whole Foods, Walmart, Target, Sunflower Market and Lowe’s, according to the city of Denver. Here’s a list of locations. Remember, the bags have to be clean and dry. (Or just buy some reusable bags — they’re stronger and quite convenient once you have them)

Paper grocery bags: Yes, put it in your purple cart.


Regular consumer batteries: No! Your AAs and 9-volts and whatnot are not allowed in the purple bin. Battery Giant (off Speer Boulevard) will recycle them for $0.50 a pound. Blue Star Recyclers (Decatur and W. 9th Ave.) will do it for $1 a pound.

Rechargeable batteries: Also no! Office Depot will recycle these for free, as will Battery Giant and any Home Depot. It’s $0.39 a pound at Blue Star.


Incandescent lightbulbs: Still no! The city advises you seal these in a paper bag and trash them, but Blue Star accepts them for $0.50 each.

CFL “curly” lightbulbs: That’s a no. Definitely don’t trash these, as they contain mercury.

The following Ace Hardware stores will do CFL recycling for free:

  • 9th Avenue Ace Hardware
  • 12th Avenue Ace Hardware
  • Tamarac Square Ace Hardware
  • Universal Hills Ace Hardware
  • Ace Hardware Alameda Station
  • Cherry Creek Ace Hardware

You can also take CFL bulbs to any Home Depot. Blue Star will take them for $0.75 each.


Absolutely not in the purple bin. Blue Star will take desktops and laptops for free, and televisions for $0.39 to $0.59 a pound, depending on type.

Functional computers can be donated to a number of places.

Office Depot will take electronics for between $5 and $15, depending on the size, along with free recycling for cell phones and ink/toner cartridges

Other stuff you can’t recycle:

  • No plastic bags
  • No styrofoam
  • No microwave popcorn bags
  • No waxed cardboard
  • No toys
  • No plastic tubes
  • No plastic shrink wrap
  • No paper cups or plates
  • No ceramics
  • No yard waste
  • No cassettes, DVDs, CDs or plastic cases
  • No candy or food wrappers
  • No bubble wrap
  • No compostable plastic

Here’s a handy flyer.

Wait, I can recycle?

Correct. Denver has a free and voluntary recycling program. You can sign up here to get a purple bin. You might also get recycling service through your building or community. In that case, the advice above most likely still applies, but you should still check.

A woman recycles in Seattle, circa 1985. (Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr)
A woman recycles in Seattle, circa 1985. (Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr)

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.