Faced with the option of expanding their 100 acre landfill site to allow for dumping past 2050, the Summit County Commissioners recently envisioned a trash free future and decided not to up-size the county site.  Right now, with full recycling – including the composting of organics – 80% of the trash stream can be re-used.  Our neighbors to the south believe the remainder of trash can be recycled by mid-century.

Perhaps the possible disappearance of garbage is a factor in considering a new landfill for Grand County. Re-starting this county service was discussed before the Grand County Commissioners at their final meeting before Christmas.  Fraser Valley Commissioner Rich Cimino, with the apparent concurrence of his fellow board members, wants this infrastructure project kept on the radar during January county planning discussions – adding the hope to at least look for property as a first step.

The innovative 700 acre Eagle County Landfill at the west end of Grand County’s Trough Road and the much beleaguered shuttered Granby Landfill were both built on Bureau of Land Management land.  Cost, distance from neighbors and the desire to utilize some of the county’s public lands in service of the local population all argue in favor of locating a landfill somewhere on the 75% of local lands belonging to government agencies.

A recent photo of a roadside mattress marked “free” in the Sky High News included a trash discussion which might have noted the price of dumping this lovely item, namely $67 for a king sized mattress and box spring set at the Granby Transfer station – the only county waste dumping facility.  Trash dumped at the very professionally run Trash Company facility costs $126 a ton to dump, compared to $29 per ton at the Eagle County Landfill.

This local cost of dumping is certainly driven by the 110 mile one way trip our trash takes to the Erie landfill.  I cringe at the environmental cost every time I see one of these trash-hauling semis headed over Berthoud Pass.  Unless our county government offers an alternative (or trash is hauled the 60 miles from Granby to the Eagle County Landfill – not likely because the Trash Company does not have a business relationship with that public facility) this financially and environmentally expensive practice will likely continue until we have a county landfill.

The trash discussion also brought to light the possibility of cooperation with our neighboring counties on the expensive processing of recycled material.  Eagle County has a $6 million recycle sorting plant which does require users to separate out their paper from the otherwise mixed stream recycles.  Our recycled material is taken to Denver for sorting.  A Grand County landfill could transport our recycles to Eagle County where products are baled and shipped straight to manufacturers.

There is an even more immediate danger to our community than the increasing dumping of trash at roadsides and in our public owned countryside – threatening the environment upon which both our quality of life and our tourist economy depends. Right now it is very difficult and expensive to get rid of wood slash, in fact there is no legal way to get rid of stumps other than by burying.

Recent fires near Kremmling, along with many conflagrations in the west, were ignited by private slash burn piles. Faced with the cost of disposal, many (including myself) choose to burn slash.  Mountain life in a geologically stable area relieves us of possible earthquake threats. Our most extreme weather events send us up to the mountain for a powder day.  None of us are safe from wild fires.

I hope our Commissioners will pursue a new Grand County Landfill. Low cost solutions to re-use and recycling might take place in this location. One might be an area where building materials can be offered to locals to reduce the cost of building and help builders (again, me) reduce our ridiculously huge trash stream. This service is offered both in Routt and Summit Counties.  Expensive recycling facilities can be shared by utilizing existing facilities in neighboring counties.  In any case, the “end of trash” will require infrastructure to facilitate this sweet smelling future – a county “landfill” site will give us the space to process waste.

The town of Fraser will open a pay as you throw trash and free recycling facility next summer. Depending on who wins a haul contract, material from this new service will likely take the same long route to its disposal site.  Our community effort to do our small part in the preservation of our blue orb depends on finding a local solution to the reuse, recycling and disposal of solid waste.