Black magic at the Summit landfill |

Black magic at the Summit landfill

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

SUMMIT COUNTY ” With nothing more than a few (OK, a lot) of wood chips, bio-solids from local wastewater-treatment plants and some food scraps, experts at the Summit County landfill are making magic.

The magic was passed around in a few zip-lock bags at the county commissioner work session this week, as local officials oohed and aaahed over the high-quality compost being manufactured high on the bluff above Highway 6.

“This stuff is good. I put it on my wife’s garden, and I had to get out of the way,” said county engineer Rick Pocius, as staffers updated the commissioners on their efforts to produce a marketable product from the bazillion tons of dead lodgepole pines.

Landfill workers have been experimenting with the compost operation for several months and think they’ve come up with the perfect recipe for making “high-end, boutique” compost, in the words of Commissioner Thomas Davidson.

The process involves piling up the wood chips, adding in the solid waste and the food scraps and treating the mixture with a “secret sauce” of bacteria that help ignite the compost pile.

The material has passed state tests for salmonella and other standards, and now the county wants to contract with an outside agent to market and sell the product, with an eye toward using the mixture locally whenever possible.

Already, there are about 2,000 cubic yards of finished material sitting at the landfill, and Pocius estimated it could fetch as much as $36 to $42 per ton. A cubic yard of compost weighs about 800 to 850 pounds.

Officials hope to collect more bio-solids and more food scraps from local resorts and grocery stores as they ramp up production of the compost. The expectation is that the operation will make money for the landfill.

But collection of residential green waste ” food scraps ” is still a long way off, officials said, concerned that local residents might start lining up to get rid of their kitchen waste well before the landfill is set up to handle it.

Nor will the compost be available to individual local buyers. It wouldn’t be cost-effective to try and set up a retail operation, thus the proposed contracting with an outside agent.

But in the long run, composting could go a long way toward reducing the amount of solid waste going into the dump, helping to take a big step toward the desired zero-waste status.

“Up to 70 percent of municipal waste is compostable,” said recycling manager Kevin Berg.

Bob Berwyn can be reached

at (970) 331-5996, or


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