In Response to: The “Coloradoan’s New Landfill, Recycling and Composting Sites will Change Your Habits” Wasteshed Article

Jacy Marmaduke of the Fort Collins Coloradoan reached out to Gallegos Sanitation this week, asking what the Larimer County Wasteshed and flow control may impact the community. Unfortunately, much of our company responses were not published in the article titled: New Landfill, Recycling and Composting Sites will Change Your Habits. In an effort to bring more insight into this topic, we are sharing those questions and our answers.

-What have been Gallegos’ main concerns/interests throughout the stakeholder engagement process for the county wasteshed plan?
On a global scale, right now, the entire world is having to re-think recycling, and no one has the answers. There must be a market for the materials and a sustainable outlet. As it stands, some recycled materials are being trashed, even locally generated materials, without the consumer’s knowledge.

Locally, in order to make the Wasteshed Plan a long-term success, legislative policy changes will be put into motion. These changes will have detrimental lasting impacts and costs. Larimer County would require all single-stream recyclables, along with construction and demolition materials, to be hauled to their facility. This is called flow control. Flow control permanently eliminates any potential for competition, because only the one designated drop-site for waste is allowed. To offer the Coloradoan’s readers a deeper perspective, in 2016 and 2018, our community paid more to dispose of recyclables than trash. In fact, the cost was more than double because of a lack of competition. In addition, the Wasteshed Plan would also mandate all organic materials be banned from the landfill. Simply put, the best benefit to the community is no flow control. People need choice and with flow control, their choice is eliminated.

“The Larimer County Wasteshed Plan is simply not the right choice for our community at this time. Its impact is detrimental to the pocketbooks of families and companies right here in Northern Colorado. The results of this Plan will be higher costs for haulers, which means increased rates for services for the people and businesses of Larimer County.” Mathew Gallegos, Chief Financial Officer, Gallegos Sanitation, Incorporated

-Did or will Gallegos advocate for any specific types of community flow control policies?
We are not here to determine policies. All along, Gallegos Sanitation, Incorporated has firmly held to the core beliefs SAFETY, SERVICE and SUSTAINABILITY are of the utmost importance in caring for our customers, community and the Earth. However, amongst all the noise of flow control policies and a $56 million dollar investment, it directly challenges some of these values. Overall, this Wasteshed Plan is not the right choice for our citizens at this time. We have been outspoken in actions that should be taken to protect customers and our values.

Perhaps, we should consider the use of a local landfill, the Ault Landfill (just east Fort Collins), until an innovative process that is both cost-efficient and truly sustainable can be established.

-Does Gallegos have a preferred method of collecting organic materials (i.e. mixed yard waste and food scraps or separated), and if so, why?
Hands down, there is nothing better than the closed loop circle, which we have right now for yard waste. Currently, we collect yard waste through our seasonal Yard Waste Program. Gallegos Sanitation, Inc. then picks up the yard waste and hauls it to a local dairy, where the materials are recycled right back into the Earth. Not long after, some local residents may even be drinking milk from that very same dairy. How great is that? This existing system is proven and economically sustainable for our community.

Food waste recycling brings about several challenges in Northern Colorado. Much of the time, you must look at the past to guide the future. In looking at what has been done in the past, Colorado, unfortunately, has seen a dismal amount of organic composting programs close or discontinue operations altogether, due to several economic influences, permitting issues, and poor quality materials. One example is A1 Organics, a Colorado-based compost company, supported the development of a large $115 million bio-digester south of Greeley. This site was to be the future for foodwaste recycling, considered phenomenal and to position Weld County as an energy economy. Inversely, it was closed last year, largely due to public pressure about air quality and a paperwork issue regarding the Certificate of Designation, required by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Weld County officials. The disposal cost at this foodwaste recycling facility (and all other foodwaste programs GSI has participated with) were almost three times the cost of trash disposal!

-Do you anticipate that residential and commercial trash rates will increase if flow control policies are implemented, and if so, why and by how much?
Overall, in other communities that have implemented flow control policies, the tipping fees for haulers increase dramatically. Those costs have to be recouped and are passed down to customers. Even after a landfill may technically be “paid off,” haulers typically continue writing big checks for hefty fees with that money going to General Funds or governmental pockets. In the end, the residents and businesses end up paying an inflated price. Although the proposed fees associated with the Laramie County Landfill and Transfer Station appear fairly equitable now, watch out with what is to come! ***Source: Pages 662-664

We only have to look slightly north to our neighbors in Laramie, Wyoming who adopted flow control three years ago. Tipping fees were $14 per ton and since have skyrocketed to over $60 ton – over a 400% increase! Traditionally, fees this high are more so associated with communities with there is little to no open space for landfills available, such as back East. In Wyoming, we all know open space is a non-issue.

With flow control, much of the time, eventually national companies are brought in to manage governmentally mandated facilities, which provide an extreme competitive advantage to that company. This is detrimental to the local haulers and often results in less competition for consumers. All the way around, this is bad for all of us here locally.

In addition to the many issues, 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. In the grand scheme of what we as a community and world are facing with the global recycling markets, readers again should ask themselves, “Is this Wasteshed Plan right for our community at this time?” The answer is no. As there is yet to be a clear solution, at this time, proactively reducing and reusing items is one way we can start to cut down on the amount of “stuff” needing to be hauled away altogether.

The wasteshed coalition estimates that residential trash fees will increase by a “very small” amount – on average, no more than 10 percent – because they say tip fees represent a small portion of the cost to haul waste materials. Would you expect a higher increase in trash rates than the coalition’s projection?
Although the projections are now only showing 10%, beware. Historically, when flow control is introduced in communities, the projections have displayed small price increases for individuals and businesses; however, in a relatively short amount of time, those prices have jumped up tremendously. Search Google. You will find example after example of flow control proposed like the ultimate solution. But many changes came in the years that followed that ultimately resulted in the consumers paying much more. Do not be fooled. With flow control, the government has entire control over the process. This means they may raise fees at any point in time and for any purpose.

It is not unheard of for officials to use the utilities they control, including waste collection, to get consumers to pay for other projects or services. They do this by creating fees they tie to waste collection to avoid having to “get public permission” like they would for a new tax. Simply put, with flow control, consumers can expect to pay more, most likely year after year.

GSI would like to see Larimer County leave this market open so that recycle tipping rates are could be kept competitive which is always best for our customers. If allowed, there are other companies right now interested in creating recycling facilities that would serve our communities, but they have had wait on the outcome of this project to determine if they could. Some have been waiting years.