Liability of Landfilling… The Next Generation’s $2 Million Problem?

A key misconception about the waste produced in Teton County Idaho is that landfilled trash is gone and no longer our problem. That is far from the truth. Landfilled trash remains a long-term liability that we are STILL responsible for.

The harsh reality for Teton County residents is we have paid over $2,000,000 and continue to pay out of pocket for the closure, cap management and monitoring of our “closed” local landfill. Unfortunately, this cost will continue since the DEQ and EPA require a 30-year monitoring and management plan once the landfill closes. These costs are an example of landfill liabilities becoming a reality.

In the past, “dry-tomb" landfilling, the cheapest method available, was used for the management of solid waste. "Dry-tomb" landfilling allows the placement of untreated municipal solid waste (MSW) in lined landfills that are covered with low-permeability covers (caps) at the time of closure. The idea is if buried waste can stay dry, it will not generate leachate; if no leachate generates, ground water will not be polluted. The technical deficiencies associated with the "dry tomb" approach are becoming well-recognized. Disposal of waste in these landfills carries a significant liability for potential clean-up of contaminated ground waters and worst case scenarios, such as a "Superfund Site” designation for waste removal and proper management.With "cradle-to-grave" liability of our waste in place, we can better evaluate the near and long-term costs and liabilities. We have the choice to make the behavioral change to divert and recycle. The reality is reuse, diversion and recycling are the best solutions.

Recycling is around 75% less expensive than landfilling and creates 5-times more local, year-round, living-wage jobs.

It’s time to reduce the amount of waste landfilled. Recycling, diversion, and reuse, reduce immediate cost as well as long-term liabilities associated with landfilling. It empowers our community economically by minimizing our dependence on something we have little control over (tipping costs at Circular Butte Landfill). It's beneficial to use the cost-savings associated with recycling to employ our residents and re-invest that money back into our local economy.

Common Questions:

“Why isn’t recycling collection free? Can’t recyclable materials be sold?”

The revenue from selling recyclable materials does not currently cover costs of providing the operation of equipment coming to each home. However, the value of landfilling liabilities is not factored in yet.

“Why is there a tipping fee on recycling?

Because the revenue from selling the recyclables materials does not cover the processing costs incurred to prepare it for a commodity buyer. Even with these costs, revenue from recycling makes recycling 75% less expensive than landfilling. And again, the value of landfilling liabilities has not been factored in yet. Waste management in Teton County is a growing operation since diversion and recycling represent such a significant economic opportunity.

Currently, over half of the material landfilled could be recycled or diverted.

Therefore, our annually compounding liabilities could reduce by 50%!Bottom line… The less our community CHOOSES to landfill, the less it costs now and in the future.

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