Environmentally Friendly Landfills 1

Should Draper Have a Green Recycling Can?

Landfills have not always had an environmentally sensitive reputation. Fifteen years ago Subtitle D helped change that, requiring all landfills to install a bottom-lining to avoid ground water contamination, as well as install gas collection services to capture the gases created from the waste. As green waste breaks down in an oxygen-free environment it produces methane, a greenhouse gas with a warming effect 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Many states have passed green waste bans to divert green waste from landfills due to the green house gases they emit, but more recently a number of states have removed their green waste bans. By recycling and collecting organic waste, methane emissions can be almost fully eliminated and actually converted into electricity. Draper, as well as six other member cities of the Trans-Jordan Landfill, currently generates 4.5 megawatts of power, producing enough electricity for 3000 homes.

As a county we have been challenged with a goal to increase our recycling efforts. Typically 70% or more of what is put in garbage cans can be recycled. Draper City has reported that its residents in general are very recycle-conscious but some may not be as informed as they could be.

Communities like Palo Alto, California are referred to as being “deep green” and are able to make recycling more of a priority. They specifically have taken it to the next level with their “Zero Waste Palo Alto” mission “to help the community reach its Zero Waste goal of virtually eliminating waste being burned or buried. Zero Waste goes beyond recycling–it’s a systems approach that first seeks to eliminate waste wherever possible, and then manages discards through reuse and recycling.”

Draper does not offer personal green waste or compost recycling cans due to the significant cost as well as the environmental impact of adding collection services. Adding a receptacle for each resident at approximately $60-$75, purchasing more equipment like trucks, as well as hiring drivers and handlers to sort through what is deposited at the green waste facility are all cost contributors. If trucks collected green waste even every other week the environmental impact on the roads and emissions would increase. Currently there is not a big enough demand or market to produce additional compost or wood chips for purchase than what is currently available. Different grades of compost are for sale at the Trans-Jordan Landfill for a reasonable price, based on the level of sorting for that grade.

Landfills need green waste to help with the decomposition of the materials. At this time it may be more cost effective to use the standard garbage can for all green or food waste to then be sorted at the landfill. Green waste may be greatly reduced by composting or mulching lawn clippings back into or on the grass after it is mowed, which also acts as a fertilizer.

The economic feasibility of restructuring the recycling program is continually evaluated. For example, the shape and size of the blue recycling can was changed to accommodate waste more efficiently without having to break down the recyclables as much. If residents have a need for an additional blue recycling can they may add one for $2.50 per month. The current blue can does not allow for glass items (which are turned into fiberglass), but there are drop off bins at Draper City Offices for glass as well as cardboard.