The Larimer County Wasteshed Plan

The Wasteshed Plan  — Is it the right time ?

The past year, a regional Wasteshed Plan has been discussed and developed to prepare for the future of waste collection in Larimer County. It has been determined that the Larimer County Landfill will reach capacity and close by 2024. From the onset, the plan looks sound with funding provided outside of local tax dollars. Plans include developing a new landfill and upgrading the current recycle center. In addition, adding construction and demolition recycling as well as building an organics composting facility is part of the project. But is this plan the right thing for our community at this time? What other impacts are there that could have long-term effects?

Photo courtesy of USA Today

We can all agree that our earth is a very precious resource and its preservation has become a global concern. Recycling has always been looked upon as an “easy” way to preserve natural resources and reduce waste entering landfills. This past year, everything began changing around the entire world. Right now, there is still not a solution in sight. In January 2018, the largest “buyer” of the entire world’s recycling, China, stopped accepting materials. Why? It would seem that the “single-stream” approach to recycling has ruined the quality of materials. Many places around the world, and even in some of the most environmentally friendly states in the U.S., have been forced to begin landfilling recyclable materials. Why? Well, the costs are so high to process mixed materials and they can no longer support these programs in current world market conditions.

In order to make the Wasteshed Plan a long-term success, legislative policy changes would have to be put into motion. These would 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 you a perspective, in 2016 and 2018, our community paid more to dispose of these recyclables than trash. In fact, the cost was more than double because of a lack of competition. The Wasteshed Plan would also mandate all organic materials be banned from the landfill.

Here in Colorado, we have seen several organic composting programs and their disposal sites close or discontinue operations due to severe economic influences and poor material quality. One example is A1 Organics, a Colorado-based compost company, supported the development of a large bio-digester northeast of Denver. This site was to be the future for foodwaste recycling. However, 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 compost facility was almost three times the cost of trash disposal!

While there is so much more to this issue, we encourage you to let us know what questions you have. The current timing, to undertake this project and to spend more than $56 million over the next few years, is far too risky for our community. Flow control has significant financial implications to households, no matter what officials say about it. In short, it results in higher prices for haulers, which will always mean increased costs to consumers. It may not be taxes, but the people of Larimer County will end up paying for it. If these programs fail due to the timing and current GLOBAL market conditions, at the end of the day without having competition, the results will be increased rates and a lack of facility options to take the materials to for processing.

To learn more about the impact of the Larimer County Wasteshed Plan, email GreenTeam@gsiwaste.com.