Ask Waste Watchers: Why do I have to pay fees at Eagle County landfill? |

Ask Waste Watchers: Why do I have to pay fees at Eagle County landfill?

Joseph Walls
Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

Why do I have to pay to dump garbage at the Eagle County landfill? Aren’t my tax dollars already going to operate the landfill?

Jeff in Gypsum

Thanks for the great question, Jeff.

It is a common misconception that the county landfill is operated with tax dollars. Under what is known as an enterprise fund, the landfill is completely funded by the fees charged to residents and businesses to dump trash, called tipping fees.

Landfill employees have worked hard to keep the tipping fees low. The current rate of $39 per ton for compacted waste is lower than the average $46 per ton for surrounding counties, and the landfill is operating at the same staffing levels as 2005.

The landfill has three distinct parts. Understanding how much it costs to operate each area will hopefully make paying fees to dump garbage more palatable.

Here is a brief explanation of what each does and the associated expense.

Landfill cell: The cell is where garbage is buried and is the most expensive part of the landfill to operate. The salaries for eight full-time employees are a large part of the budget. Additionally, $800,000 per year is spent on repairing and maintaining equipment. A single tire on a large piece of equipment can be $7,000!

Materials Recovery Facility: This facility is where glass, plastic, aluminum, cardboard and other recyclables are sorted and prepared for shipment to end-user sites. Expenses here include operating and maintaining a large facility, wages for four county employees and two contract laborers and maintaining seven recycle drop-off sites.

One cost-cutting measure the Materials Recovery Facility has taken is to employ four work-release inmates, called trustees, from the Eagle County jail. In return for working at the Materials Recovery Facility, a trustee’s prison sentence is reduced one day for every day worked. Trustees benefit by reducing their jail sentences, the taxpayer benefits by not feeding and housing them for the additional time, and the facility benefits from their labor. The Materials Recovery Facility was able to break even financially in 2011, its second full year of operation.

Household Hazardous Waste: The HHW is also part of the Eagle County landfill budget. It is one of only 10 such permanent facilities in Colorado where residents can drop off household paints, batteries and other chemicals free of charge. Small businesses pay to dispose of waste at the HHW, but what they pay typically covers only the actual disposal costs. What the HHW charges for recycling electronics is designed to be at the break-even point. The HHW employs just one full-time person.

Disposing of household chemicals is a very expensive proposition. Unwanted paint, chemicals and electronics have no monetary value. Since the HHW has no real source of revenue, it is dependent on the landfill for most operating costs.

Joseph Walls is hazardous-waste specialist at the Eagle County Household Hazardous Waste facility, located at the landfill in Wolcott. The facility is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Call 970-328-3468 or visit for information.

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