County mulls landfill rate changes
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY ” The local landfill is projected to fill up in 60 years, assuming a 3 percent increase in trash per year, according to recycling and landfill assistant operations supervisor Kevin Berg. In order to push back that estimate and to keep the landfill’s finances in check, the county is considering changing fees to promote recycling and discourage dumping of reusable materials.
In the past two years, trash volumes at the landfill have increased 11 percent each year ” 51,251 tons in 2004 to 63,000 tons in 2006. These numbers come on the heels of the county’s 2005 zero-waste resolution, which has a goal of working toward a recovery-based economy instead of a disposal-based economy.
Assistant county manager Thad Noll said population and building growth accounts for the increase in volume. But growth doesn’t have to mean more trash, he said.
“If you have big increases in growth we would like to see less increase in garbage, or even decreases in garbage,” Noll said. “Because of the Materials Recovery Facility and other programs, that’s possible.”
Those other programs include composting, now in the final stages of EPA approval for Summit County’s landfill, which will divert organic waste like wood and other carbon-based material that is currently not recyclable, according to a county report. In addition, the MRF will soon begin collecting mixed containers.
And these changes will affect the construction industry. The landfill staff estimates that 50 percent of the material currently going into the landfill is easily and inexpensively recycled. Problem is, the current fee structure makes it easier and less expensive to dump than implement new programs to promote recycling, according to the county.
That’s where the proposed price changes could come in. By decreasing recycling rates ” to a point where the real cost of dealing with recyclables is greater than the proposed charges ” and increasing tipping fees, builders could actually save money with the proposed tipping fee increase.
The county is recommending an $8.53 increase per ton of trash, taking into account offsetting price reductions for recyclable materials, closure/post closure account revenues and consumer price index increases, including fuel. Total price per ton of trash is expected to be around $57 per ton if the proposed changes are passed, while wood waste, for example, if recycled, would be only $15 per ton.
But right now, there’s a catch. In order for builders to recycle their source-separated materials like cardboard, wood and steel, they must be separated from regular trash. And that often means finding space for an extra Dumpster on construction sites. Currently, most town and HOA regulations don’t permit the required space for an extra receptacle, making it difficult to sort recyclables from non-recyclables.
“The towns would have to pass an extra Dumpster (regulation),” Noll said. “What we’ve heard from builders is on the job site, it’s difficult to fit another Dumpster because of restrictions.”
Noll said the proposed new fee structure was presented to the Summit County Builders Association members at their monthly meeting this week.
“They (the builders) were mostly acceptable with the whole idea,” Noll said. “They said they need to do some negotiating with the homeowners associations primarily.”
That said, the county is hoping the increase ” which Noll said the county is recommending for spring or early summer ” will drive towns and HOAs to ease Dumpster space restrictions before the fee changes go into effect.
Summit County Builders Association president Dave Koons said most builders already recycle what they can, given the regulations.
“Most of the tradesmen know there is a food waste container and a wood waste container,” Koons said. “Put a little sign up and people stick to it. It gets difficult without the room for equipment.”
Local builder Jon Rovick said he thinks recycling is important and does as much as he can to recycle what he can, but there’s no question that sorting requires more labor.
“Problem is, you put a Dumpster on a job site and you’re relying on subcontractors to do what you’re asking them to do,” he said ” and that means more overall work.
Construction recycling was an issue discussed with the Efficient Builidng Advisory Group (EBAG), a collection of builders, architects and building officials formed to create an efficient, countywide building code.
“They (EBAG members) were receptive as long as changes were made to allow them to put a second Dumpster on the property,” Noll said.
Under the current rate system:
If a builder dumps 8 tons of loose trash at $48 per ton, the total cost is $384.
Under the proposed rate system: if a builder recycled 25 percent of the 8 tons, total cost would come to $372, a $12 total price decrease.
There’s more to the county’s proposed landfill rate change of $8.53 per ton than encouraging recycling.
To start, closure/post closure costs must be accounted for. Closure/post closure refers to the revegetation and treatment of waste sites, even after the landfill has closed. By EPA mandate, the closure/post closure fund for Summit’s landfill must progress steadily toward $1,715,000. Currently the fund has a reserve of $615,000. The county recommends a $3.05 per ton increase to make up this shortfall in six years.
In addition, the consumer price index (CPI) since the last price increase has been 4.51 percent, excluding the impacts of fuel. With just the non-fuel portion of the CPI taken into account, that accounts for $1.89 per ton of the proposed total $8.53 per ton tipping fee increase. The fuel portion accounts for $3.51 per ton of the total recommended increase.
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