Eagle County looks at increasing landfill tipping fees to incentivize composting
Higher fees proposed for landscaping materials as a way to spur people toward composting
EAGLE COUNTY — During a discussion of Eagle County Landfill tipping fees earlier this month, county officials voiced their desire to have charges reflect an environmentally sensitive philosophy.
Specifically, the Eagle County commissioners said people should be financially motivated to make more environmentally sound choices.
It has been eight years since the county increased tipping fees at its landfill, located north of Wolcott. Jesse Masten, the solid waste and recycling manager for the county, proposed a revised tipping fee schedule that slightly decreased fees for some trash types but significantly increased charges for landscaping materials.
Currently, the landfill tipping fee for landscaping materials is $23.10 per ton. The new proposal is to increase that charge to $39 per ton.
“The reason behind this is to financially incentivize people to start diverting their landscaping materials to the composting facility,” Masten said.
The county does not operate the composting facility, but it did invest nearly $300,000 to help create the program. The composting facility is owned and operated by Vail Honeywagon and is located along Ute Creek Road near the landfill.
“A 40% increase (in landfill tipping fees) would help considerably on their end,” Masten said.
Masten noted that the county’s Climate Action Plan goal is driving the tipping fee discussion. The county’s goal is 30% waste diversion by 2030 and Masten said that means more county residents and businesses need to use the composting option, along with other recycling options, available at the landfill.
Rounding up or rounding down?
As for other tipping fees at the facility, Masten suggested a slight drop in charges. For example, the current tipping fee for construction materials is $47.45 and the proposed new fee is $47. Masten said the proposal is aimed at simplifying the schedule by rounding down to even dollar amounts.
“It will be a lot easier to communicate this to customers,” he said. The net impact of the drop would be around $21,000 and the thinking behind rounding down was to offset the proposed landscape materials increase.
“In a $3 million (operating) budget, this is a drop in the bucket,” Masten said.
In response, the commissioners noted that because the amount was nominal when rounding up or rounding down, they would support the increase.
“Every little bit, in the future, will help us do things,” said Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney. “For instance, I don’t want to have to turn down a solar project at the landfill because we don’t have enough money.”
Commissioner Matt Scherr noted that there are conflicting goals at work at the landfill. On one hand, the county wants to encourage recycling and reduce the volume of materials that end up at the landfill. On the other hand, reducing trash deposits at the site means reducing revenue which could affect the county’s future ability to fund projects that support climate action goals.
Noting that the landfill’s tipping fees currently are the lowest in the region, Scherr said some residents favor higher tipping charges as a way to get more people involved in recycling.
“Where should our fees be to get maximum diversion?” Scherr asked.
Following the discussion, Masten was instructed to proceed with a formal resolution that will include the rounded-up tipping fees and the increased landscape materials charge. That resolution will come back to the county commissioners for formal action.
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