Realizing that the Salt Lake County Landfill could reach capacity in 50 years, the Salt Lake City Council and Mayor Ralph Becker want to extend the landfill’s life. In March, they introduced a plan to significantly improve Salt Lake City’s waste-diversion rate.
Their goal, however, exceeds even their own realistic estimates. By 2015, they want to send half of the city’s trash to places other than the landfill, such as for recycling or composting. But right now, they only send 19 percent of the trash elsewhere, and their most optimistic estimates only project 42 percent diversion by 2015. Still, those numbers don’t temper their ambitions.
The plan involves a number of changes, such as 20 added glass drop-off sites around the city (see “Pain in the Glass” in the 2010 Green Guide for more about glass recycling). But a primary focus will be required year-round yard waste collection for composting, a plan that would also eliminate fall leaf and Christmas tree pick-up to encourage people to use the brown waste bins that the city will provide for a $3.50 monthly cost. There will also be increased enforcement and education.
West Jordan is the only other city in Salt Lake County that offers consistent brown waste pickup. West Valley, Riverton, West Jordan, Midvale, South Jordan and Sandy send their trash to the Salt Lake County Landfill, and are not participating in the plan to divert 50 percent of their waste away from the landfill. Instead, they are “doing the best they can,” according to Ashlee Yoder, director of recycling at the Salt Lake County Landfill. She says that even though the push to go green has gotten bigger, “many people aren’t interested in the argument that we’re saving the Earth,” because of the processing that follows curbside recycling. Another big concern, according to Yoder, is money, but few residents realize that even if the yard waste bin is required, Salt Lake’s fees will still be less than many Western U.S. cities.
For some, the scary part of the “waste-diversion” plan may be the “increased enforcement.” But Yoder says this will simply entail inspector’s checking the different bins to make sure people use them properly. Their goal won’t be to punish, but to educate.
Some residents actually hope the increased enforcement will help everyone reduce their waste, especially by composting. Jackson Chapman, a local composting veteran, called the plan a step up from the current “ignore the transients looking through your recycling bins for cans to sell for 10 cents a pound” method of pushing recycling. “People are always going to get offended, but it’s not like they’re looking for bombs. They’re looking for aluminum cans in a garbage pile. If they don’t want people looking through there then why don’t they just throw the right things in the right spots?” Chapman said.
Although Salt Lake City is the only city working this aggressively to implement brown-waste disposal, anyone in Salt Lake County can pay $30 for a three-day rental of a green waste trailer through the Salt Lake County Sanitation Division.
Outside Salt Lake County, South Utah Valley Solid Waste District allows residents of Provo, Spanish Fork, Springville, Mapleton, Salem, Goshen and Woodland Hills to drop-off brown waste for free.
Residents of North Salt Lake, Woods Cross, West Bountiful, Centerville and Bountiful can drop off truckloads of brown waste for $3 per load at the Bountiful Landfill.