Breckenridge Town Council approves first step toward pay-as-you-throw waste system

Residents sort recycling at a drop off center in Summit County. Breckenridge Town Council was presented with two ordinances to consider that aim to help the town meet its recycling goals.
High Country Conservation Center/Courtesy photo

Breckenridge Town Council approved two town ordinances that would establish a pay-as-you-throw system for waste in town. 

The pay-as-you-throw system is volume-based, meaning that households pay varying rates based on the size of their trash containers. A family that produces less waste would pay less money than a family that produces more, and households can decide what size trash bin they need for weekly pick-up. Currently, everyone pays the same rate, so households that produce less waste subsidize those that produce more, proponents of the pay-as-you-throw system argue.

Staff recommended the two ordinances in order to help reach the town’s goals of 40% landfill diversion by 2032 and 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from waste by 2030. Across the county, the landfill is expected to close by 2056 if no intervention of waste production takes place. 

On June 14, the council discussed volume-based trash services and asked staff to come back with a first reading. Town staff presented two ordinances for consideration.

The first defines new requirements for haulers. Under the ordinance, residential trash service levels would be established based on the volume of the trash containers provided by the hauler. The base unit rate, or “small,” includes recycling service and is the cost basis for two other service levels. The medium cart service level shall be no less than 80% over the base rate, and the large container service level shall be no less than 160% over the base rate. In the legislation, a small container would contain no more than 39 gallons, a medium cart can have volume capacity of more than 60 gallons but not more than 69 gallons and large containers would have more than 90 gallons and no more than 99. Anything larger than a large container is considered a dumpster. 

Burley said that the gaps between each size are to prevent overfilling from households who buy a smaller size but still produce the amount of waste for a larger size.

Haulers are required to have 90% of trash and recycling containers delivered to residents by Oct. 1, 2023, and 100% by Dec. 31, 2023. For individual containers under a group contract, the haulers must provide the same service options to each individual home and the group contract will be negotiated according to the number of service levels. 

Haulers are required to have 50% of recycling service provided to commercial customers by April 1, 2023 and 100% by April 1, 2024. Glass service is also required for any restaurant, bar, tap house or tavern. Glass and organics service for other commercial accounts is at the discretion of the hauler. 

For residential units, the other ordinance reinforces existing code requiring container placement at the curb on days of pick up between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. For commercial customers, they are required to provide recycling bins adjacent to existing trash bins in common areas accessible to the public. Additional glass recycling bins are required in common areas for any restaurant, bar, tap house or tavern if trash is accessible to the public, and hotels are required to provide recycling bins in guest rooms. 

“The biggest change is around commercial generators. So anyone who has a common area that has trash accessible to the public, you have to provide a recycling bin adjacent to the trash,” Burley added. “It’s basically sort of an equal opportunity, if you will, for trash and recycling. The one extra piece to that is if you are an establishment that serves beverages primarily in glass — we were thinking about trying to figure out a way to tie it to if you have a liquor license, but that got way too complicated — you have to have glass recycling.”

This ordinance includes some exemptions, such as haulers that transport hazardous waste, property owners that haul trash irregularly and charitable organizations. Some council members expressed interest in seeing different language for the second reading to shave down some of the exceptions. 

“Even those furniture stores with the take-back programs, they have all that cardboard stuff,” council member Kelly Owens said. “I feel like we shouldn’t exclude them.”

To fund the transition, staff is asking that $150,000 from the 2023 budget be used with additional funding from the Strong Future Fund. 

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