TWIN FALLS — Based on current trends, Twin Falls’ recycling program will save only about 50 days of life for the Milner Butte Landfill.
That’s what PSI Environmental Systems site manager Jason Kirschenmann told the City Council on Monday during a presentation on recycling issues and costs. His calculations were based on current recycling of 120 tons per month over the 40-year remaining lifespan of the landfill’s currently permitted site.
Considering those figures and the monetary and environmental costs of recycling, City Council members were stumped after Kirschenmann’s report.
“It really makes you wonder, what is the right thing to do?” Councilwoman Suzanne Hawkins said.
The Milner Butte regional landfill is estimated to have another 40 years of life left on its current permitted property. That’s based on 1.5% annual increase in trash coming in, Kirschenmann told the Times-News in a phone interview Monday evening. The landfill receives about 250,000 tons of garbage per year.
Since the inception of the cart process in 2010, Twin Falls has diverted about 17,122 tons from the regional landfill. And due to national and international factors, recycling costs have increased in the past year, leading the City Council to gradually raise customer bills by $1.27 per month since April 2018.
PSI Environmental Systems is the city’s contractor for sanitation services. It pays Magic Valley Recycling $30 per ton to bale the city’s mixed recycling and another $40 per ton to ship it to Ada County. There, the recycling gets sorted for another $70 to $100 per ton.
Kirschenmann also reported where recycling goes and what it costs in fuel to get where it’s going. From the Ada County sorting center, recyclables get shipped hundreds of miles to Washington, Oregon, Utah or Kentucky for processing. About 70% of mixed paper is sent internationally. And about 11% of Twin Falls’ collected recycling is dumped as trash into Ada County’s landfill because it isn’t recyclable material.
In Twin Falls, PSI trucks average 35 miles per day to collect recycling, with gas mileage just short of 2 miles per gallon of diesel fuel. On the highway, Kirschenmann estimates trucks get only 6 miles to the gallon, using around 100 gallons of diesel fuel to take recycling on to places such as Longview, Wash.
“This is very eye-opening information,” Mayor Shawn Barigar said. Given the added environmental cost of transportation and fuel, he said, “We’re probably doing more harm than good.”
The PSI presentation also showed current market prices of recycling, and which products are causing the city’s costs to go up. Twin Falls Utility Services Director Bill Baxter suggested the Council consider recycling only products that have a high enough value to offset the costs: cardboard, aluminum and tin cans. If the city focused on collecting revenue-generating products, its costs for sorting would drop, he said.
While Council members were generally in favor of recycling, the report certainly brought some aspects into question. City Manager Travis Rothweiler said past meetings have given the city a rosy picture of recycling while failing to tell the whole story.
“I think this is that rest of the story — the important part that needed to be told,” Rothweiler said.
He recommended the Council go back to residents and have a public hearing before it makes any more decisions about recycling.
“We need to make this decision as a community,” Baxter told the Times-News after the meeting.
Also at the meeting, the Council:
- Heard a proclamation declaring the fourth week of April as Youth Appreciation Week in the city of Twin Falls.
- Heard a proclamation declaring April 26 as Arbor Day in the city of Twin Falls.
- Confirmed the city manager’s appointment of Mark Holtzen as the city engineer.
- Receive a presentation from Southern Idaho Tourism for its annual update. Lodging tax collections in the region are up 1.5%.
- Heard an update on the Municipal Powers Outsource Grants process. Eleven organizations attended the mandatory pre-grant meeting this month. The city will award up to $85,000 in grants in June.
- Received a presentation on the city’s finances for the first six months of the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
- Approved a request to vacate platted easements and dedicated right of way within the Perrine Point Subdivision, located in the 1000 block of Falls Avenue West.