As other towns roll out volume-based pricing for trash disposal, Dillon Town Council chooses to ‘wait and see’
Mayor Carolyn Skowyra said she believes pay-as-you-throw programs are 'the future,' though council members want to see Summit County government, towns roll out their programs first
While Breckenridge and Frisco are in the process of rolling out programs aimed at incentivizing recycling, Dillon Town Council decided Tuesday, March 7, to observe how the rollout goes in other towns before starting its own program.
Known as pay-as-you-throw service, the programs provide residents with free recycling bins while charging more for large trash bins and less for smaller trash bins. This type of program is being implemented in Frisco and Breckenridge and currently is under consideration by Summit County officials.
“I think this is the future,” Dillon Mayor Carolyn Skowyra said. “So whether we do it now or in 10 years, I think something like this has to be coming.”
Skowyra noted that statistics show Summit County diverts only about 20% of its waste from the landfill. And Dillon is even worse, she said, diverting an estimated 14% to 17% of its waste from the landfill. The Summit Community Climate Action Plan lays out a goal of reaching a diversion rate of 40% countywide by 2035. Based on current projections, the Summit County’s landfill will close in 2056, and that date could come sooner without mitigation.
“We’re doing very poorly, and our goal is to raise that number,” Skowyra said. “So the more material they can divert from the landfill will raise that number.”
Council member Tony Scalise questioned how pay-as-you-throw disposal would function with short-term rentals, which could lead to increased cross-contamination in recycling since the renters don’t necessarily care about diversion goals.
Skowyra responded that proponents of pay-as-you-throw service have said it is better for there to be cross-contamination that can be sorted out of the recycling, than for there to be no recycling option at all.
Town Manager Nathan Johnson noted that he has suggested that the county focus first on incentivizing the recycling of aluminum and glass, since almost everyone knows these are recyclable, before focusing on plastics, which are trickier to recycle.
However, Skowyra said that plastics — especially hard plastics such as laundry detergent jugs — are a high priority for landfill diversion because they don’t compress like glass and aluminum and therefore take up a significant amount of space.
Early on as towns began considering pay-as-you-throw programs, there were concerns that the local hauling services wouldn’t be able to provide the necessary services, but some of those fears have been alleviated as the programs have started to roll out, Skowyra said.
“Breckenridge and Frisco have these programs (rolling) out, so the companies are making that happen in those communities,” she said. “I think the model is showing, if you say it has to be done, it will be done. The manpower will arrive.”
Skowyra raised the idea of doing a “soft rollout” in Dillon that focused first on single-family homes rather than on condominium complexes or short-term rentals. She also asked what it would take for the town to provide trash service for its residents, rather than have everyone individually hiring private providers.
Scott O’Brien, the town’s public works director, said that could take several forms. Some municipalities run their own trash service, although O’Brien said he doesn’t think Dillon should purchase their own trash trucks to do that. Other towns contract with a waste management service to pickup trash and recycling across the entire town, he said, adding that that option could reduce truck traffic in some neighborhoods currently served by multiple waste management services.
Council member John Woods raised the concern that if the town were to implement pay-as-you-throw service, it could lead to substantial costs for some homeowners associations and condominium complexes because they will have to expand enclosed dumpster spaces to include recycling.
Skowyra noted that the idea behind a pay-as-you-throw system is that while the same amount of waste material is being disposed of as before, more of it is being recycled, and therefore trash dumpsters can be smaller to make room for recycling containers.
Pointing to a town code that requires enclosed dumpsters, O’Brien noted that the council should also be taking a look at code-related issues while considering how to implement pay-as-you-throw policies in the future.
“There’s a bit of work to do if we’re going to roll that out,” he said. “So it might be good to sort of just observe for a year to get our ducks in a row.”
Several council members also voiced support for waiting to see how the implementation of the programs goes in other governmental districts in Summit County.
Scalise asked, “Can we do what we do in a lot of areas and delay our decisions until we see how their programs go?”
And council member Dana Christiansen said, “I hate to be a follower instead of a leader, but this might be a good one to kind of watch and see how it goes.”
Overall, Skowyra said, “It sounds like we’re not quite ready to move on this still and we’d like to watch and see how it goes.”
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