Trash takeover a threat to recycling
A move by a Utah company to take over trash pickup in the Roaring Fork Valley may have negative consequences for more residents than just those who live near the railroad tracks.
Local trash experts have issued warnings that allowing a nationwide disposal corporation to haul valley trash to a landfill in Utah would cripple local recycling programs and lead to higher curbside trash pickup costs. ECDC-Allied, of Holiday, Utah, hopes to provide just such a service, with hauling done by rail. (See related story on page 3.)
Miles Stotts, Pitkin County’s solid waste manager, told the county commissioners yesterday that ECDC wants to pick up only household and restaurant waste, leaving such problematic things as construction waste and tree branches for local haulers to deal with. His source for this information, he said, was an ECDC representative.
Household and restaurant garbage, also known as putrescible waste for its ability to decay, can be compressed, making it more attractive to a long-distance hauler, Stotts said. But because it is compressible and because it represents the greatest volume of trash, it also generates the most revenue for local landfills. The Pitkin County Landfill generates profit for the county by charging haulers to dump trash there.
“That’s the revenue that it takes to run a recycling program,” Stotts said. “If we lost $3, $4 million in revenue, we’d have to consider carefully what we are able to recycle.”
Stotts said without the tip fees for putrescible waste, the landfill could run at a reduced level, but might have difficulty paying the contractor that operates it. The operation might also be short of cash to cope with such emergencies as an increase in ground-water contamination.
Jim Duke, operator of a Carbondale composting company called Cacaloco Compost, said yesterday that he doubts that ECDC would engage in any recycling on its own, because recycling must be subsidized and the company is in the trash business solely to make money. Duke is a former manager of the Pitkin County Landfill.
“They’re not apt to take anything that’s losing money,” he said. “They’re certainly not going to subsidize recycling.”
Duke, who is known for creating innovative solutions and turning waste into useful products, agreed that trash is the recycler’s biggest source of money. “The revenue allows us to experiment with solutions,” he said. Duke said he fears the local landfills would actually have to stop operating altogether without the revenue provided by household waste.
Warning that Allied Waste is no stranger to self-promotion and public relations, Duke noted that ECDC and its parent company, Allied, have been strangely silent for all the work they’ve done at getting into position to haul away the Roaring Fork Valley’s trash. Allied now owns the valley’s only legal trash transfer station, in Basalt.
“If they had any good news for us,” he said, “they’d be singing and dancing in the streets.” He said the scheme will likely end up costing citizens more for trash pickup service.
“You won’t see a lower curbside pickup fee,” Duke said. “Once they get rid of the landfills, around here, then they can raise their price.”
Because much of the money spent on trash hauling and disposal now turns over in the local economy, saying goodbye to the trash would also mean saying goodbye to a lot of money, Duke said.
“We’re looking at $5 million a year leaving the valley,” he said.
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