Single materials ban might be a solution to save room at the Glenwood Springs landfill

A pile of finished compost sits at the South Canyon Landfill.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Glenwood Springs may ban certain types of materials at the city’s South Canyon Landfill that can be recycled or composted in order to extend the life of the landfill.

“It’s basically items brought to the landfill that we know can be recycled, composted and brought in in an inefficient and environmentally friendly way,” city Public Works Director Matt Langhorst said. 

A landfill ban is a tool that landfills can use to increase recycling and reduce unnecessary waste, South Canyon Landfill Manager Liz Mauro said during the Nov. 3 city council meeting.

The city of Fort Collins has used it, and bans have also extended to items like e-waste, light bulbs and batteries, he said. 

Mauro said such materials bans can be enacted on a state, city and even private level, depending on landfill ownership. The state of Colorado in 2013 made it illegal for residents to dispose of electronics in their personal trash.

“It sounds extreme when you start out with it,” Mauro said. “It’s one of those things you get used to, and it doesn’t even seem like a ban anymore.” 

She said the primary focus is on yard waste, metal, cardboard and food waste because they are some of the more common materials being landfilled that could be recycled or composted, she said. 

“They are also common materials that other cities, states and landfills already have bans on, so it’s something that we know can be done and we can replicate it,” Mauro said. 

Yard waste accounts for 8.7% of the total waste going into the landfill, about 3,350 tons worth, instead of being composted. Another 16% of waste going to the landfill is food waste, she said. 

The recommended place to start is with yard waste because South Canyon Landfill already has the capacity to start immediately. Metal and cardboard could be done with outreach and education, and food waste would be the biggest challenge with how uncommon curbside composting still is locally, she said.

Council Member Paula Stepp asked what would happen when people throw away a few leaves and minor yard waste in their trash bins. 

“People putting a little yard waste into their household trash is not the biggest thing with that,” Mauro said. 

The biggest potential violators would be landscapers and the property-management companies, she said.

She said they often arrive at the landfill with a trailer filled with half brush and half trash since there is no incentive to separate them. 

“So, they’re already there,” she said. “They have a dump trailer, and they can pretty easily do it. They just need that extra push to do it.”

When working with the community, they would be sure to do ample outreach before enforcing the ban. 

“We would not implement a ban without doing a large education service,” Langhorst said. “If half of your trash can is weeds because that’s what they pulled out, they may not pick it up. They may say that’s too much. They may tag it.” 

Some haulers can even take a picture from the truck and email the customer while they’re still outside saying they won’t pick it up until it has been removed, he said. Again, this would be after a large education outreach from the city and the haulers, he said. 

It will take time to get it right, both he and Mauro said. 

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