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ESB To Consider Tabling ‘Save As You Throw’

on November 7, 2019 - 4:25pm
Los Alamos Daily Post

Work on the proposed Save As You Throw Program might halt; however, Los Alamos County’s focus to reduce the amount of waste trucked to the landfill remains strong.

During a special meeting Oct. 30, members of the Environmental Sustainability Board (ESB) agreed to vote on a recommendation during their regular meeting Nov. 21, which proposes to table the Save As You Throw options and look at food composting to help curb waste in the County.

Environmental Services Manager Angelica Gurule said, “The Save As You Throw program, in a perfect world, would save money … but based on estimated rates there would be minimal savings for only some of the users.”

Initially, ESB considered several options with the Save As You Throw program.

The first option proposed to keep the existing system in which all residents pay the same fee, regardless of how much they throw away. The fee increases every few years to cover the continuously rising cost to collect, transport and dump waste.

The next two options would be similar to the collection system implemented for businesses, which are charged based on how much trash they throw away. For the cart-based Save As You Throw program, residents would choose different size roll carts: 96-gallon, 64-gallon or 48-gallon. The monthly refuse bill would vary depending on the cart size.  

Or, for the bag-based program, residents would purchase special trash bags to place in their roll carts and would have a monthly refuse fee.

The cost savings incurred for a bag-based program could be realized by reducing the number of bags needed.

Environmental Services Senior Office Specialist Joshua Levings said ESB leaned more toward the bag options but ultimately decided not to pursue the Save As You Throw program.

“It just doesn’t make economic sense at this point,” Gurule said.

As a result, the ESB is looking to other options, namely food composting.

“It’s a complicated issue,” ESB member Sue Barns said. “My understanding … is that we are (looking at) tabling the Save As You Throw program in order to give us time to research what composting would mean to the community.”

Food waste takes up a large portion of what gets dumped into the trash, Gurule said. In fact, if food composting was implemented, about 1,300 tons of food waste could potentially be diverted annually.

To start with, Environmental Services would look at a municipal food composting program focused on big generators of food waste such as businesses, restaurants, schools, hospitals and grocery stores, Gurule said.

She added that Environmental Services is considering providing centralized food waste collection centers for residential use, which would be similar to the glass recycle dumpsters.

Food compost would need to be processed immediately so it doesn’t attract “vectors”, such as mice or birds, or cause odors.

Although there would be startup and ongoing costs associated with a composting program, there also would be a cost savings. Gurule said the potential savings is estimated to be $65,000 per year if 100 percent of food waste can be diverted from the landfill.

The composting program would be designed locally and permitted with the state. It also would require Council approval.

Gurule emphasized that any type of food composting program is a long way off; it would take years to be developed and initiated. Food composting could be an effective solution to divert waste but will take time to implement.

“Our ultimate goal is diverting and reducing the amount of waste generated and sent to the landfill,” she said.

There are things everyone - businesses and residences - can do right now to reduce the amount of food that gets tossed in the trash.

“To cut food waste, the most important thing you can do is plan ahead,” Gurule said. “If people make grocery lists or plan menus in advance, it cuts down on the chances of buying items they already have in the pantry or fridge.”