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Photo: Breanne Kiefner

A Family-Run Solution to Your Recycling Problems

How a Denver couple’s new service helps families tackle hard-to-recycle items.

The kids’ worn-out clothes fill several Goodwill boxes. Amazon padded envelopes stack high in the office closet. Plastic King Soopers bags crowd the space under the kitchen sink. In short, your family has accumulated waste. 

When the compost or general recycling bin aren’t appropriate fixes, and you’re loath to toss more in the trash, you can now turn to Happy Beetle Recycle, a local subscription pickup service for hard-to-recycle items.

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“As a parent, as a young family, we inevitably will generate more waste than we wish we did,” Dave Kiefner, co-founder of Happy Beetle, says. “I have a five-year-old, and I’m concerned about the environment and the climate. I wanted to show him that we can all take meaningful steps and contribute to this cause to make the world better.”

Kiefner and his wife, Breanne, who live in the Whittier neighborhood of Denver, launched the Earth-conscious business from their garage in April 2021. They offer monthly or quarterly pickups for a core set of items including electronics, paint cans, Ziploc bags, and car seats; seasonal pickups for special items like Christmas lights, school supplies, and kitchenware are also available. From there, Happy Beetle sorts the goods and delivers them to the correct recycling centers.  

“We aim to build the circular economy in Denver and beyond,” Happy Beetle’s website states. The company’s namesake, the dung beetle, illustrates the concept by using animal dung for shelter and food. Waste is not an eyesore, but an asset.

Happy Beetle’s service has quickly become valuable to the recycling ecosystem in Denver; in its first three months they diverted an estimated 8,286 pounds of batteries, books, textiles, etc. from landfills. They work with about a dozen third party companies that responsibly break down specific items. The Kiefners try to ensure their partners are local and have a solid social mission. For example, SustainAbility Recycling and Blue Star Recyclers each employ individuals who have intellectual/developmental disabilities.

“We do all that homework to ensure that the partners we work with are doing the right thing, they have the right certifications, and aren’t just taking the easy way out,” Kiefner says.

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Happy Beetle now has a small warehouse, about 400 square feet, close to Stanley Marketplace. It’s where the small staff and some volunteers (a lot of program members reach out offering to help) sort items and load vans. The company’s goal is to purchase an electric vehicle for pickups; until that’s feasible, they offset emissions with contributions to the Colorado Carbon Fund, design routes to maximize fuel efficiency, and do pick ups via cargo bike and trailer when possible.

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Happy Beetle’s service area includes the metro area enclosed by C-470 and E-470 highway loop, plus Boulder. Pickups currently cost $12 for a monthly subscription (charged annually at $122), and $78 quarterly.

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