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Armstrong Talks Trash. Should County Take On Garbage Service Itself?

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The Summit County Council is being asked to think about some major changes for their solid waste—such as the county taking on the job of trash collection itself.

Council Chairman Roger Armstrong says whatever happens, their job is to manage the public’s money as best they can.  

Armstrong told KPCW  he doesn’t want to get too far ahead of Landfill Superintendent Tim Loveday, who will report soon with a consultant study on the county’s trash.

He did say, though, that he wants to focus on recycling.   Armstrong asked, can the county do a better job?       

          “We’ve got I think a 37 percent contamination rate, which means 37 percent of what we collect to be recycled goes down to the Salt Lake Valley, and goes into somebody else’s landfill.  And I suppose there’s a business model there with shipping our trash to somebody else.   But if our goal is recycling, if our goal is to take materials that can be recycled, can be re-used and can be put back in the system, we’re probably not doing that as well as we can.”

One factor is that recycling is hard  when the Park City area often swells with tourists.      

“ People come from jurisdictions all over the United States and internationally, and every one of those jurisdictions has slightly different rules about what’s recyclable and what’s not.  And if you put something in our recycle system that doesn’t belong there, the entire load winds up getting wasted.”

He noted that Loveday has  talked to Salt Lake recycling operations.    And one challenge is finding the staff.     

“We’ve had some conversations about, do we do some sort of sorting up here.  He went to a sorting facility, and they said if they can get a worker to come back the third day, it’s magic.    They’ve got him.  So it’s the dullest work that you can imagine standing in front of a conveyor picking up the good stuff or picking up the bad.  So is that a business that we want to be in, or is that something  that we’re probably better off paying somebody else to do.”

A related topic is finding a new home for Recycle Utah, once that operation has to leave its Woodbine Way home in Park City. 

Armstrong said they had considered their recently-acquired Gillmor parcel along the Highway 40 frontage road   But since the property has no utilities or road access now, Gillmor could only be at most a temporary use.    The same goes for the county’s Cline-Dahle parcel on Rasmussen Road.

Loveday also notified the Council he had heard from a company interested in setting up a waste-to-energy plant in the county.     However, Armstrong was a little taken aback by the proposal to turn plastic and other trash into diesel fuel

“That caused a bit of a brain cramp with me.   I’m not sure I want to take recycled material and turn it into a carbon source of fuel.  But maybe there’s a reason to do that if diesel is going to be around for the short term.   I’m just not sure, I don’t know, but yes, it’s out there.   And they’re making, I’ve heard, some facilities that turn material into carbon pellets basically.   They burn it and turn it into carbon pellets.”

Another question, he said, is what size the facilities would be.

“Because these tend to be really big machines and would occupy a lot more space than we need and be a lot more than we need.  So do we regionalize it?   Do we partner with Morgan County and Cache County and Wasatch County and others to site a facility someplace that we control that might actually work?”

Summit County Council Chairman Roger Armstrong.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covers Summit County meetings and issues. KPCW snagged him from The Park Record in the '80s, and he's been on air and covering the entire county ever since. He produces the Week In Review podcast, as well a heads the Friday Film Review team.
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