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Should trash disposal be based on ‘pay as you throw’?

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News
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June’s task force discussion about taking Summit County to zero-waste stalled Monday night around the “pay-as-you-throw” concept, which typically requires those who send more to the landfill to pay additional costs.

“It’s a real flash-point topic,” assistant county manager Thad Noll said. “Lots of communities are doing it. It causes some issues early on, but without fail, communities that have implemented it have shown increased recycling.”

It’s like a utility: If a resident creates less trash, he theoretically pays less than a resident who trashes more.



Pay-as-you-throw is “the most proven mechanism for diversion,” meeting facilitator Laurie Batchelder-Adams said, adding that it can play into the single-stream recycling scenario most task force members want.

“If the county is serious about zero waste and you are not talking pay-as-you-throw, those two things are not going to work together,” Batchelder-Adams said.



Roughly two dozen officials and individuals vested in Summit County’s waste-stream system and the potential regulations that might ensue are gathering monthly to discuss revamping the system. The goal is to make it financially sound at the same time it meets the needs of haulers, consumers and the interests of the county to divert as much waste as possible from the landfill.

Discussion has previously surrounded the ideal system for recycling processing and collections as well as how to handle compost, special waste and appliances, and whether to staff drop-off sites to ensure users aren’t misusing the system. Adding recycling sites at the north and south ends of the county was a point of discussion, as was whether to keep drop sites free – the answer was a resounding “yes” to that one.

Monday’s meeting was spent entirely on the pay-as-you-throw concept, with most task force members in support of volume-based pricing for garbage collection. A vocal minority spoke out about associated difficulties and problems.

Moving toward pay-as-you-throw gets pushback from haulers in particular, Noll said.

“It’s extra work for them, there’s no doubt,” he said, adding that he’s glad haulers are at the table to provide their input and work toward a solution that suits all interests.

“The haulers have been awesome,” he said. “People give the haulers a bad rep sometimes … They’ve been really engaged in this process. I’m super excited that they’re there at the table and having positive comments.”

Other questions arose about whether such a system would be suitable for commercial interests, such as hotels and large multi-family housing complexes. Another argument surrounded whether locals who are members of HOAs with a high proportion of vacationers would bear the brunt of increased costs. Proponents of the measure said prices could drop as much as they could increase.

“It incentivizes the people that don’t care,” county recycling operations supervisor Kevin Berg said.

Skeptics wanted more information about the economic and social impacts of such a change.

“We’re not seeing fists pounding on the table saying, ‘Let’s do this’ because the financial conclusions just aren’t obvious,” Silverthorne Town Councilman Dave Anderson said.

At the end of two hours of work trying to reach consensus, meeting attendees assigned municipal representatives and haulers to meet with High Country Conservation Center officials between the June and July meetings to develop a pay-as-you-throw option that could work for everyone. That proposal should be presented for discussion at the July 23 meeting, slated for 5:30-7:30 at the County Commons.

Whatever agreement reached will likely become a county ordinance, creating the parameters in which haulers and residents must operate.

“Lots of communities have gone through this same discussion and lots of communities have figured it out. Lots of haulers have figured it out, and we will too,” Noll said.


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