New trash-hauling fees dumped " for now
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE ” County commissioners temporarily dumped a plan to change the rate structure for trash hauling after learning that the proposed changes wouldn’t ” as hoped ” significantly extend the life of the landfill.
After taking a hard look at the numbers, planners determined the new rates might add only a few months to the life expectancy of the facility.
Planners have discussed the “pay-as-you-throw” program for months, hoping to spur recycling efforts by offering discounts for people who recycle more and generate less trash.
The idea was to get people to recognize that landfill space is a valuable commodity, like water or electricity, said assistant county manager Thad Noll. Based on that concept, it’s only fair that people pay for the use of that space, just like any other commodity.
The proposal is part of moving toward a stated goal in the county of “zero-waste.”
“People who recycle are subsidizing those who don’t,” Noll said, explaining how the existing rate structure works.
Local trash-hauling companies initially objected to the proposal, citing increased administration costs as well as the price of buying new containers. But Noll said the planners worked with the haulers to address those concerns.
Planners also said that construction waste is by far the biggest source of materials going into the landfill, making up nearly half the volume.
In response, commissioners said tackling that source of waste could be a more important step in extending the landfill’s lifespan. Frisco’s aggressive effort to encourage recycling of construction waste was cited as an example for the county.
Recycling manager Kevin Berg said it’s not just about extending landfill capacity.
“We want to encourage recycling without adding cost to residents. … We’re burying natural resources that come from somewhere. At some point, it’s going to be cheaper to reuse them than getting the virgin raw materials,” Berg said.
He was careful to say that this might not be the right time to impose extra financial burdens on trash haulers. He advocated for a delay in imposing new fees.
But everyone acknowledged that the volume-based trash-hauling rates would not have the desired effect on landfill space.
“It may not have the impact we thought it would have. There may be more cost-effective solutions,” said High Country Conservation Center director Carly Wier, as the discussion shifted toward finding ways to promote recycling without changing trash-hauling fees.
Part of the answer could be to work with the towns to find locations for smaller, decentralized recycling facilities, especially to serve dense neighborhoods with multifamily units.
Several town managers at the meeting agreed that they would work with the county to examine that option.
Breckenridge town manager Tim Gagen said the focus should be on moving toward a comprehensive solid-waste plan and not on something that is solely a reaction to varying economic conditions.
The proliferation of disposal companies locally adds an extra challenge to coordinating trash-hauling and recycling efforts, he noted.
In other states, towns can coordinate those efforts by contracting with a single company, Gagen said, adding that Colorado may need to look to a legislative solution for help.
“Pay-as-you-throw will have long-term benefits. But it needs to be part of moving toward a long-term solution at a reasonable pace that doesn’t burden the private sector,” he said, advocating for a big-picture look at solid-waste disposal.
But Silverthorne town manager Kevin Batchelder suggested that the switch would create more of a demand for recycling.
“Volume-based systems have worked everywhere they’ve been tried,” he said.
For now, the county will go back to the drawing board and look at ways to spur recycling efforts, but the volume-based trash-hauling fee structure likely will be back on the table soon.
Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996 or at email@example.com.
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