Pitkin County backs off recycling fee at landfill
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Though recycling operations at the Pitkin County landfill will run at a projected deficit of close to $600,000 this year, county commissioners declined Tuesday to charge haulers a fee for dropping recyclable materials at the facility.
Chris Hoofnagle, the county’s solid waste manager, had proposed a $15 per ton tipping fee for haulers bringing in recyclables such as cans, glass, plastics and newspapers. In the past, the materials have been accepted free of charge, though the landfill loses money on recyclables. And this year, the landfill began paying $30 per ton to deposit the materials in Denver, where they are taken for processing.
“Recycling really isn’t free. There’s a cost to it,” Hoofnagle told commissioners.
The revenues from other landfill operations have long subsidized recycling, but many of those funding sources are down – a result of the faltering economy.
While individuals could continue to drop off recyclables at a recycling center or the landfill itself for free, any fee imposed on commercial haulers would likely be passed on to consumers, Hoofnagle conceded. Many residents pay to have their garbage and recyclables picked up by a hauler.
“If we charge a fee, fees at the curbside are going to rise – no question about it,” Hoofnagle said.
Commissioner Rachel Richards voiced concern that haulers would use the fee as a reason to jack up rates beyond an increase commensurate with the $15 per ton fee.
“It’s a fairly minor fee. It shouldn’t have that large an effect,” she said.
Hoofnagle expected the fee to generate an additional $45,000 in net revenue for the landfill, but commissioners suggested the landfill could realize at least that much in savings when a new, regional facility that will sort and ship recyclables opens in Eagle County early this year.
“I think we’ll be shipping to them on their first day,” Hoofnagle said. No tipping fee is anticipated at the Eagle County facility, at least to start, and the landfill will save on the current cost of transporting the materials all the way to Denver, he said.
In addition, haulers from the lower valley may choose to take recyclables directly to Eagle County rather than bring them to Pitkin County, further cutting the county’s costs, commissioners suggested.
The county should see what savings it will realize once the Eagle County facility opens up before instituting a tipping fee for recyclables at the landfill, a majority of the commissioners agreed.
In the long run, though, the subsidizing of recycling through other landfill operations will have to change, Hoofnagle predicted.
The landfill’s overall budget projects a deficit of about $80,000 in 2010.
Commissioners did give their informal endorsement to a proposal that could attract more construction waste to the landfill, and boost revenues as a result. Hoofnagle will be able to negotiate reduced rates for haulers bringing in construction materials based on the total amount they will bring in over the course of the year. A hauler bringing in 20,000 cubic yards will get a slightly better rate than one bringing in 10,000 cubic yards, for example.
The arrangement could mean additional revenue for the landfill to help balance the operating budget, according to Hoofnagle. Currently, the landfill’s fee for construction waste is high enough to discourage haulers from bringing the waste there.
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