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Surplus becomes a bargain at landfill

Cliff Thompson
Preston Utley/Vail DailySite manager Bert Naumann left, and Matt Scherr at the RECON site which is located just outside the Eagle County landfill in Wolcott.
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WOLCOTT – Looking for a bargain on some building materials but haven’t found one? You might want to take a look at a new building materials recycling operation at the county landfill – the RECON Building Materials program started last week by the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, a nonprofit environmental organization.The new nonprofit business finds new uses for excess and used building materials that have been clogging the landfill. You can buy them at a discounted price, said Matt Scherr, president of the alliance.And it’s not junk, he said. “The general rule of thumb used to evaluate materials is ‘Would you buy it?'” Scherr said.For businesses donating materials, the benefits are twofold – they get a tax write-off for donating the materials to a nonprofit organization and also reduce the amount of material taken to the landfill and correspondingly, reduce the cost of using and the facility north of Wolcott, Scherr said. That can add up, Scherr said.As a general rule, 90 percent of construction materials and demolition waste is reusable, Scherr said. Nearly 50 percent of all material at the landfill is construction or demolition related.

Trashy folks RECON is designed to behave like a perpetual motion machine, said Scherr. RECON received a startup donation of $30,000 from Eagle County, as well as a donation of land from the landfill. The program should generate $100,000 in revenue this year, Scherr said. That will result in $10,500 more expenses than revenue, which Scherr said will likely be secured from other donations. But next year it should have more cash than expenses.”You have a lot more revenue than expenses,” he said. “Because you don’t have to pay for the products.”The money will be used by the alliance to fund operation, Scherr said.But money is not the ultimate goal of the program. It has loftier aspirations, like reducing the amount of material that’s discarded, and finding utility in what had been landfill material. That will reduce overall consumption, Scherr said.”Our landfill is well above the national average in composition of construction and demolition material,” he said.About half of what is dumped at the landfill is construction materials, said Ron Rasnic, landfill manager, adding that last year 99,000 tons of material of all kinds were dumped. That’s more than 100 commercial trash vehicles and private vehicles a day, he said.

All that material is reducing the expected life of the landfill to 14 years, Rasnic said. He estimated that less than 5 percent of the material discarded by residents is recycled instead of being sent to the landfill.Starts at the DumpsterAt RA Nelson, an Eagle-Vail-based general contracting firm with 140 employees, recycling building materials starts on the job site, said Diana Scherr, director of marketing.Employees at the firm now separate reusable lumber scraps and other building materials, she said. That routine now occurs regularly at the company’s building sites that stretch across resort towns in Colorado, Nevada and California. It started when some environmentally conscious employees suggested it would be a good thing to do, she said.”You’re not only doing the right thing for mother earth,” she said. “It’s a financial benefit for sorting lumber and bringing cabinets and doors to the landfill. You have reduced tipping fees.”It can add up to a lot of material. At the firm’s Miller Ranch construction site in Edwards, project coordinator Chris Lammers estimates that three 40 cubic-yard Dumpsters are taken to the landfill each day. Sorted lumber scraps that are partially reusable or can be ground for compost makes up about one-third of the daily total, he said.”It’s gotta be the future,” Lammers said. “We can’t keep going at this pace. If we deplete resources the prices are just going to skyrocket.”Last week the construction company also donated some labor to help build storage units at the landfill for RECON, Lammers said.



Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado


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