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How Larimer County’s new landfill, facilities will affect residents

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Larimer County plans to build five new facilities for trash between 2022 and 2024.
Jacy Marmaduke, jmarmaduke@coloradoan.com

Larimer County’s plans for a new landfill, upgraded recycling center and four other facilities will change the way you deal with your trash and increase residential collection rates.

How and by how much will be up to city leaders and trash haulers.

The county plans to replace its nearly full landfill with a “resource recovery park” on the same site — basically a one-stop shop for construction waste, yard waste, food scraps and recycling, and an on-site transfer station where haulers and residents can drop off trash for trucking to a new county-owned landfill north of Wellington. The components of the county’s recently adopted Solid Waste Infrastructure Management Plan would divert as much as 40 percent of the trash currently sent to landfills, according to the regional coalition of elected officials and municipal staffers that created the plan.

The diversion increase would diminish greenhouse gas emissions from landfilled trash and give Fort Collins a leg up on its plan to eliminate all waste by 2030. Regional officials expect the facilities and upgrades will be finished by 2024, the same year the Larimer County landfill is projected to close. The timeline moved up from 2025 after a June 19 hailstorm sent a flood of large, heavy roof debris to the landfill.

To ensure the new facilities have a steady inflow of materials to work with, the coalition is asking communities to adopt rules related to yard waste, recycling, food scraps and construction waste.

As soon as early March, Fort Collins City Council will decide whether to commit to passing policies that support the county’s plans. City leaders will have final say on the exact mix of policies, which would be in place by the time each respective facility opens. Estes Park and Loveland will go through a similar process.

Among the coalition’s policy suggestions:

  • Policies and programs encouraging communities to send yard waste to the county’s new yard waste composting facility
  • A policy establishing the county’s upgraded recycling center as the sole destination for curbside recycling
  • A policy requiring builders to send all mixed construction and demolition debris to the county’s construction and demolition debris sorting facility for 10 years after it opens in 2022
  • Incentives or programs to encourage the community to divert waste from the landfill

More: Larimer leaders plan new landfill, mandatory yard waste composting

The policy strategy is meant to “eliminate the chicken and the egg problem,” said Honore Depew, a Fort Collins senior sustainability specialist and member of the planning coalition. He looks at it this way: It’s risky to invest money in a sorting facility for construction and demolition waste without being sure people will send their construction debris there, and it’s similarly risky to require builders to recycle their construction debris without a convenient place to send them.

In other words, “Fort Collins has access to the infrastructure we need to meet our adopted zero waste goals — all for the price of policy,” said Caroline Mitchell, senior environmental planner with the city of Fort Collins and a member of the planning coalition.

But that price is too high, counter leaders of Gallegos Sanitation. The local hauler offered sharp criticism of the county’s plan, arguing that flow control policies will trigger higher costs if they limit options for trash. Haulers pay fees to drop off trash, recycling and other waste at landfills and other collection facilities, and when those fees increase, so do residential pickup rates. Members of the planning coalition note that there are no plans to require haulers to send trash to the new landfill.

Gallegos leaders also pointed to the national struggles to turn a profit with recycling and affordably compost food scraps. The tip fee for a ton of mixed recycling at the landfill is about double the fee for a ton of trash because of the volatile market for recyclables.

“… the irony of the wasteshed plan is it deems more materials for recycling when, in essence, we (on a global scale) still do not have a solution for all the materials that are designated as recyclables now,” Gallegos marketing manager Holli McElwee wrote in a statement to the Coloradoan.

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The new facilities could help solve that problem, Depew said. The location of the proposed yard waste and composting facilities at the current landfill site would drastically reduce the hauling distance for that waste, which could limit costs for haulers and residents, he said.

Tipping fees account for a small portion of hauler costs, according to the coalition’s research. The coalition projects the county’s plan will increase residential trash rates by less than 10 percent, but the magnitude of the increase will ultimately be up to haulers.

That number comes from analysis provided by the city of Loveland, which handles its own trash collection. Loveland analysis predicted an approximately 6 percent increase in pickup costs for residents. That means a family paying $13 a month for a 65-gallon trash cart would pay $13.80 under the proposal. 

Hauler costs would increase even if county leaders decided not to build a new landfill, Depew said. A private landfill in Ault would then be the lone destination for trash in the area. Haulers will still be able to drop off trash at the Ault landfill, Depew added.

“The price to handle materials would certainly go up significantly,” he said. “There was really no option to maintain the status quo.” 

The plan at a glance

The county’s solid waste department has saved about $41 million to pay for the new infrastructure and will finance the remaining $14 million without using tax revenue. 

Here’s where most of your trash will go come 2024 (or earlier) and how the new infrastructure could affect you.

More: With time running out for Larimer landfill, leaders close in on alternatives

Yard waste and food scraps

Yard waste and food scraps will go to side-by-side facilities where yard waste is composted with open windrows and where food scraps are composted in an enclosure to reduce odors. The yard waste facility is slated to open in 2022; the food scraps facility is slated to open in 2024. The two sites together will cost about $11.8 million.

The planning coalition previously recommended a landfill ban on yard waste, but they’re now recommending policies and programs encouraging communities to send yard waste to the new facility. Yard waste pickup is an opt-in service in Fort Collins and has a 12 percent participation rate, Mitchell said.

The planning coalition called food scraps pickup “typically the largest hurdle in developing facilities to handle food waste” and didn’t recommend any rules on that front yet. Food scrap collection can be hard to roll out because it’s a bigger ask for haulers and community members, but the coalition suggested starting with businesses.

Construction waste

Construction and demolition debris will go to a $13.7 million sorting facility where manual labor and machines will separate the debris into materials that the county can sell on the open market. It’s scheduled to open in 2022. The coalition recommends a mandate that builders send all their waste to this facility for 10 years, unless they sort their waste themselves.

Depew said it would likely save builders money overall. Fort Collins builders currently separate most of their waste for recycling because of a city ordinance, and the new policy would allow them to send it all to the same place and save on compliance costs.

This facility will likely be a public-private partnership.

Fort Collins has long been a regional leader in the realm of construction waste, which represents a huge chunk of landfilled trash on the ballooning Front Range. Fort Collins has the best overall recycling rate in the state for residential, commercial and industrial waste — 55 percent — largely because 70 percent of its industrial waste is recycled, according to the 2018 “State of Recycling in Colorado” report.

More: Hughes Stadium demolition shows that recycling, not junking, forsaken buildings is possible

Recycling and everything else

Recycling will still go to the Larimer County Recycling Center, which will see $3 million in upgrades. The coalition suggested community policies requiring all mixed recycling to go to the county-run center.

Gallegos takes issue with that suggestion because of recycling’s uncertain future. Recyclable materials are worth very little money and have been harder to sell since China stopped buying American recyclables.

If the recycling center gets enough material, the county will look to build its own recycling sorting and processing facility.

The county currently sends recyclables from the recycling center to a processing center in Denver. Having a center here in Larimer County would eliminate transportation costs and could make recycling cheaper for residents, Depew said.

Garbage that can’t go to any of the aforementioned places will end up at a transfer station on the current landfill site, where haulers will collect trash for trucking to the new landfill 25 miles north. The new landfill could be the last public landfill in Larimer County. It will cost $11.7 million and is expected to open in 2023.

This article includes a correction: The regional planning coalition is no longer recommending a landfill ban on yard waste.

 

Read or Share this story: https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2019/01/17/larimer-county-landfill-recycling-trash-facility/2540746002/



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