Disposal fees at the Montezuma County landfill will increase in 2019 to save money for $3 million in estimated closure costs when the current landfill reaches capacity and the permit expires in about 20 years.
But for commercial haulers and private residents who deliver source-separated recycling, the increase will be less, because by diverting recyclables, they are saving space in the landfill and extending its lifetime.
Beginning Jan. 1, disposal fees for all municipal solid waste and construction and demolition loads will jump 29 percent, said landfill manager Shak Powers.
Commercial haulers that do not offer source-separated recycling to customers as part of their standard package by July 1 will face another 30 percent jump – a total of 59 percent – over current disposal fees.
Rates for commercial haulers that provide curbside source recycling after July 1 will stay at the 29 percent increase.
The higher rate increase also applies to people who do not separate out recyclables in their loads.
The 29 percent disposal fee increase will kick in Jan. 1. The disposal price for municipal solid waste will increase from $40.61 per ton to $52.40 per ton, and the disposal price for construction and demolition materials will increase from $33.59 per ton to $43.33 per ton.
By July 1, commercial haulers that have not implemented a curbside, source-separated recycling program as part of their standard package will face a rate of $64.96 per ton for municipal solid waste and $53.74 for construction and demolition.
Source-separated, curbside recycling programs must at a minimum include separated cardboard, office paper, No. 1 plastics, aluminum and tin.
Powers said the split-rate increases are to incentivize recycling, cover closing costs and meet new state diversion goals. The landfill rate increases were approved by the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners on Sept. 24.
“Those who consume the most landfill space the quickest because they choose not to recycle will pay the higher price toward covering the closure,” Powers said. “Nobody likes it when fees go up, but we do not have a choice in order to cover future closure costs and stay in compliance with the state.”
Part of the drive to increase recycling at the landfill is to comply with new state guidelines, Powers said.
The landfill currently diverts 10 percent of all disposals toward recycling. But the state wants rural landfills to divert 13 percent by 2026 and 15 percent by 2036.
Whether the increases in landfill fees for commercial haulers will result in higher service bills for customers is not yet known. Calls to Waste Management and the city of Cortez were not returned by press time.
A new landfill on the same property will be planned and applied for to replace the current one once it reaches its permitted capacity in about 20 years, Powers said.
The total county landfill property is 320 acres, and the current permitted landfill is 54 acres.
Landfill permits are issued through the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. Powers said it is a long process, and planning and applying for the new landfill will begin in about 10 years.
The increase in fees will allow the landfill to save enough to pay the closure cost. Those costs involve capping and covering the landfill, seeding and long-term monitoring of gases and groundwater.
Because of a decrease in municipal and construction waste, the landfill has been losing revenues since 2014, Powers said, adding to the budget crunch.
“We have 20 years to set aside the money to pay for closure costs. Other counties have set nothing aside, and when the permit expires on their landfill, they are struggling to find money for the closure process required by law.”
Powers said the local landfill offers many services, is in compliance with the Department of Health and Environment and prices have been lower than nearby landfills. The landfill pays for separated recyclable commodities, sorts and bales recyclables for the open market, has a composting facility, opened an Upcycle Store that diverts usable goods for sale to the public and provides on-site refrigerant recovery.
Powers said the landfill has been cutting the budget because of dropping demand and looming closing costs.
Operating expenses dropped from $111,000 in 2014 to $109,000. And switching from a stacked bale system to a compaction fill system in 2014 has also saved $40,000 in fuel costs and $32,000 in utility costs, Powers said.
Individual garbage bills will depend on how much of the cost trash service providers pass on to consumers.
Because the city of Cortez has a curbside recycling program, its disposal fees at the landfill will increase at the 29 percent rate.
Commercial waste haulers must weigh the business decision about whether to offer curbside source recycling, which requires recycling trucks, time and drivers.