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Recycling costs money

Is there such a thing as too much recycling?

That’s a question the Summit County Council must answer before the current waste collection contract expires in June 2012.

"Recycling doesn’t save us money, it costs us money," said Summit County Manager Bob Jasper on Wednesday. "But it saves in how it delays for many years when you need a new landfill which are not the easiest places to site."

Jasper said he supports recycling for dozens of reasons, but the county will need to understand the program’s true costs as it contemplates its needs for about the next seven years.

Cliff Blonquist, the solid waste manager for the county, said in an interview Thursday that expanding the county’s curbside recycling efforts from about 5,000 homes to 14,000 would require increasing his department’s budget by about 15 percent, or $677,000. That estimate is based on current pricing and may change.

The "cell" containing the county’s garbage at Three Mile Landfill near Rockport Reservoir should be usable for another 10 to 12 years. If recycling is expanded, it could be used for another 15 years. Lining a new cell costs about $2 million, he said.

As far as total use of the landfill, the pit is not yet one-fifth full and should last for another 50 years. The goal is to make it last for 100 more years.

Partially from recycling efforts and partially because of the recession, landfill usage has actually declined in recent years, said Summit County Sustainability Coordinator Ashley Koehler.

Council member John Hanrahan said he’d like to see data on the financial benefits of recycling.

"I can make a lot of arguments for why recycling is the right thing to do besides money," Jasper said.

"We should have a tangible cost-savings benefit," Hanrahan replied.

"I’m not sure it will pencil out," Jasper said.

Blonquist and Koehler gave a few suggestions purposed by staffers to lower costs and divert waste from the landfill. They asked for guidance from the council.

One idea was shrinking the size of garbage cans provided by the county and charging for additional cans.

Duane Schmidt, mayor of Coalville and owner of a waste-removal company, suggested letting private companies do recyclables collection. Right now the curbside program costs the county an additional $6.46 per month on top of the $9.62 per household for garbage. A private firm charges twice that, but less if an entire street or neighborhood is in the program.

Another idea was mixing sewer sludge from the water reclamation facilities with green waste to spread on ground east of Echo Canyon.

Blonquist on Thursday said a wise move would be curbside recycling in dense neighborhoods and offer convenient "drop-off" sites in the rural areas.

Councilor Chris Robinson at the Wednesday meeting proposed an enterprise fund. Jasper said most communities use such a fund to charge residents for their waste removal instead of using property tax revenue, as Summit County does.

The County Council agreed to discuss the waste disposal contract again in six weeks.


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