Pitkin County looking to divert more trash | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County looking to divert more trash

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times
Pitkin County landfill
Aspen Times File

With an eye toward extending the life of the landfill, Pitkin County commissioners are taking a close look at what you throw away.

And while the first phase of a two phase study shows that 42 percent of the 38,000 tons of municipal solid waste generated in 2015 was diverted from the landfill, that still leaves 23,000 tons that could be whittled down further, said consultant Laurie Batchelder Adams.

“That’s a great number,” Adams said. “It far exceeds the state average … and the national average.”

The 38,000 tons does not include materials collected through area recycling programs, she said.

Based on an audit that required handpicking though a scoop of trash from each truck load collected on one day in the summer and one day in the fall, the study found that 17 percent of that 23,000 tons consisted of food waste, Adams said.

“We really want to target food waste and yard waste,” she said.

Making a dent in that amount of food waste will require getting local restaurants and cafeterias to participate, Adams said.

Plastic and paper amounted to 20 percent each of the amount of trash, according to the study.

When it comes to non-municipal solid waste — which includes industrial, oil and gas and agricultural waste — the biggest source at the Pitkin County Landfill in the past couple of years was construction and demolition waste, Adams said.

Commissioner George Newman pointed out that with major projects like Base Village in Snowmass Village coming up and constant construction activity in the Aspen area, that is unlikely to change in the near future.

Ideas on how to decrease that waste include adding incentives for contractors to “deconstruct” buildings and divert those materials for reuse or recycling rather than tear them down and throw the destroyed materials away, Adams said.

Phase two of the study — which will cost $75,000 — will take place later this year and offer specific changes to existing programs designed to get residents, businesses and members of the construction community to further reduce the amount of materials in the landfill.

The landfill is expected to last approximately another 15 years, said John Briest, another consultant.