A Republic Services collection truck dumps a load at the county landfill. (Photo: Photo: Lexi Peery/The Spectrum & Daily News)
Standing on top of a massive mountain of trash, Washington County Solid Waste district manager Neil Schwendiman explains the county’s waste program to a group of college students, many of them holding their noses.
Bright blue dump trucks drive past, emptying load after load. A compacting truck drives back and forth, leveling the stream of fresh trash — some 900 tons every day that get added to the dump.
In a county of about 170,000 residents, that’s the equivalent of more than 10 pounds per person, every day.
Schwendiman tells the group, assembled as part of a field trip on Tuesday, that a tool the county hopes to use cut back on that heavy rate of waste and to keep the ever-growing landfill functioning for years to come, is to rely more and more on recycling.
Yet in recent months, the county’s recycling has been dumped right into the trash pile.
This week, the county took a substantial — and potentially costly — step to ensure the area’s recyclable materials actually start getting recycled again.
The recycling delay
BluCan recycling bins placed on a curb in Washington City Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (Photo: Chris Caldwell / The Spectrum & Daily News)
The WCSW board voted Monday to approve a contract with a private waste management company, Republic Services, to process the county’s recycling.
But it won’t come cheap.
The proposed agreement could cost the county $114,536, the estimated price tag to reimburse Republic for the cost of building a new “transload” facility at the dump if the county decides not to continue recycling with the service in 2021.
The delay in running a transload station is why the county’s recycling is currently going to the landfill.
Before July, Rocky Mountain Recycling had been processing recyclable materials for the county after moving them through its St. George facility. Rocky Mountain had raised prices from $15 a ton to $50, and was asking to increase fees to $78 this summer. That’s when the contract was terminated with the county. Republic Services will charge the county $128 per ton for processing recycling.
The transload facility is a key part of switching over processing to Republic Services. For Republic — which now collects and will soon be processing the county’s recycling — to transport recyclables from the county to its Las Vegas processing plant, 10-wheel collection trucks need to be able to transfer the loads of recyclables to semi-trucks.
When the contract between the county and Rocky Mountain was terminated, St. George Mayor Jon Pike said he was under the impression Republic was good to go with processing the county’s recycling. He said he was upset to find out that a transload station still needed to be built.
“I think it’s really unfair, and I wish we knew this six weeks ago. This could have made the difference and we could have stayed with Rocky Mountain,” Pike said during the administrative control board’s meeting. “It puts us in a bad position.”
Two members of the board brought up ending recycling altogether and voted against approving the contract. In response, Schwendiman said it would cost the county around $2.5 million to terminate its collecting contract with Republic.
Reece DeMille, the manager of municipal services and government affairs for Republic, said the area at the landfill where the transload facility would be located is level and ready for building. He said his team was waiting for approval of the contract before beginning work but now anticipates the station will be completed in around 60 days.
Recycling throughout the county — including the BluCan and Binnie programs — is suspended until the transload station is built. Schwendiman said the county is able to take metals to be recycled and can store glass to be recycled in the future.
The future of recycling in the county is uncertain beyond its current contracts, which end in 2021. But once the transload station is built and recycling resumes, Schwendiman said the county will be able to continue recycling paper, which was previously a potential cut.
“We’re doing our best to manage the circumstances we’re in. Going forward, we’re looking into the best option for our residents,” Schwendiman said. He expects the landfill, at our current rate of waste disposal, will last another 100-200 years. “We have to look at ways we can make this landfill last longer.”
Lexi Peery is the environment and politics reporter for The Spectrum & Daily News, a USA TODAY Network newsroom based in southern Utah. You can reach her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @LexiFP. And if you want to support and sustain this work, consider subscribing today.
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