Salt Lake Valley landfills filling up fast

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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- In the Salt Lake Valley, residents throw away about four to five pounds of trash a day, per person. That totals thousands of tons a day going into our landfills.

But many landfills are filling up fast; and when they do the garbage will have to be shipped out of the valley, hundreds of miles away, and residents will end up paying for it.

Each day, 1,500 tons of trash is dumped at the Salt Lake Valley Landfill. Salt Lake County owns 550 acres of land for all this rubbish, but in less than 50 years it will be all used up.

Salt Lake Valley trash removal costs
  • The average Salt Lake County household pays $330 a year for trash removal.
  • The average Salt Lake City resident pays approximately $200 a year for trash removal.
  • When the Salt Lake Valley Landfill closes, those costs could go up almost 10 times.
Source: Ashlee Yoder, Salt Lake Valley Landfill

"Salt Lake County does not own any more property in which to put a landfill," says Ashlee Yoder, recycling coordinator for the landfill.

Once the landfill is full, trash from Salt Lake Valley residents will be shipped out of the valley.

"That means we end up paying transportation costs and increased fees, because these regional landfills will most likely be owned by private contractors," Yoder says.

She estimates in the average Salt Lake County household pays $330 a year for trash removal in their property taxes. In Salt Lake City, a resident pays approximately $200 a year.

But when the landfill closes, those costs could go up almost 10 times -- and that expected closing date could come faster, as smaller landfills in the valley close.

"We would then become the closest landfill for them," Yoder says. "That would mean our tonnage could potentially double."

One of those landfills is the Trans-Jordan Landfill. Right now, the landfill boasts some of the cheapest trash removal costs in the country -- about $10 a month for residents in the seven valley cities it services -- but it's got a closing date too.

"If we just recycled our plastic and paper, we would have 50 percent more space." Ashlee Yoder, Salt Lake Valley Landfill

"Seventeen to 20 years," says Dwayne Woolley, director of the Trans-Jordan Landfill.

The cost to residents will then increase three to four times.

One way to prolong the life of landfills, Yoder says, is to recycle.

"If we just recycled our plastic and paper, we would have 50 percent more space," she says.

Though those in the trash business can see the end of the valley's landfills, they say there is a future for trash.

"I think in 20 years we'll see a big change in what can happen with garbage, instead of just burying it," Woolley says.

In fact, a small BMW manufacturing plant in South Carolina is already putting trash too good use: the factory runs on it.

"It's the things that you would throw away in your, in your garbage can. ... That material is a fuel source for the BMW plant," says Zane Ferris, operations director at the Palmetto Landfill.

Garbage at the Palmetto Landfill decomposes, producing methane gas. That gas is filtered, cleaned and pressurized before traveling 10 miles underground to power the machines that make BMW cars.



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Amanda Butterfield


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