Landfill plans to charge by weight | AspenTimes.com

Landfill plans to charge by weight

Michael McLaughlin
The Apsen Times

Forty-two percent of the 38,000 tons of municipal solid waste generated in 2015 was diverted from the Pitkin County landfill.

In an effort to simplify the fee structure at the Pitkin County Solid Waste Center, the county plans to implement a new system by February that will change how the facility charges customers.

The current system charges fees based on weight, cubic yards or volume. Cathy Hall, the solid-waste manager at the landfill, said that if there are no objections during the second reading of the proposal at the county commissioners meeting on Jan. 8, the waste center will convert to a strictly weight-based charging system.

"Charging by weight will make it easier to manage what we bring in," Hall said. "It will also bring a consistency to what we're charging."

Depending on the gatekeeper at the landfill, volume estimates would vary. At a meeting before the county commissioners last week, Hall said her reputation as the gatekeeper is for underestimating volumes. That caused problems when the same customer would return with a similar load and receive a more substantial charge from a different employee. Hall said estimating volumes is not easy. Dealing with the variety of vehicles and the different materials and capacities they carry was difficult to read consistently.

"Discrepancies caused disagreements and arguments," Hall said. "It was hard for our customers to understand why they were getting charged different fees."

Hall said the typical dump truck that brings in crushable materials like rocks and soil will pay more through the weight system. Currently, those trucks are charged $8.50 per cubic yard, and landfill employees estimate the total amount of materials. The new pay system will charge those trucks $12.50 per ton.

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"Under the current system, a dump truck with crushable material is charged about $85 a load," Hall said. "At $12.50 a ton, they'll be paying around $125 a load. The bottom line is the larger commercial vehicles will likely pay more. The roll-off trucks' and compacted-trash trucks' prices will stay the same."

Steve Smith, who runs Steve Smith Construction in Aspen, said his company typically uses the landfill once a week throughout the year. He said it often uses a 14-yard dump trailer but loaded with many different materials, depending on the job the company is working on, to haul materials to the landfill. Some days the trailer would be full of concrete, and other days a majority of the load would be insulation or similar light materials.

"When they charge by volume, our loads would often cost the same, no matter what we were hauling," Smith said. "Going to a weight-based system would work better for us and be much more fair."

The waste center had a certified scale installed, in 2010. Once the weight system is adopted, vehicles will get weighed before unloading their waste and then weighed again afterward to determine how much material they brought in.

The first time a vehicle accesses the scale after depositing its load, the waste center will record the empty weight of that vehicle electronically onto a card. The next time that vehicle brings a load in, it will only need to access the scale once. The weight on the issued weight card will be subtracted from the loaded weight to determine the amount charged.

"Once we get the weight-based system going, it will ultimately make accessing the waste center easier," Hall said. "Reducing the discrepancies will reduce the disagreements with the public."

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com