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Regional Wasteshed Planning
After more than 50 years of service the Larimer County Landfill is almost at the end of its useful life – it is forecast to reach capacity and close by 2024.
The City of Fort Collins has been working closely with regional partners to plan for the long-term future of waste disposal and resource recovery infrastructure in Northern Colorado. After several years of careful analysis and stakeholder input, a master plan for regional solid waste infrastructure has been adopted by Larimer County.
Current Action & Next Steps
In April 2019 Fort Collins City Council voted unanimously to adopt an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) for regional collaboration with Loveland, Estes Park, and Larimer County that was the first step to implementing a master plan for solid waste infrastructure.
At the same time, City Council adopted changes to the building codes that will direct enough construction and demolition waste to a new County-owned facility (once it is operational) to cause the County to build it, as laid out in the IGA.
Implementation of the master plan, including design, permitting, and construction of new facilities is beginning in 2019 with all facilities expected to be complete before the current landfill reaches capacity by 2024.
Fort Collins Residents can get involved in the Regional Wasteshed Planning Process by:
- Visiting www.larimer.org/wasteshed
- Signing up for our recycling newsletter (green box on this page)
What is Being Proposed?
Significant new infrastructure is planned including resource recovery facilities for green waste and construction debris, a convenient trash drop-off site for residents and trash haulers, upgrades to the existing recycling center, and a new landfill in the north part of the county – all without using taxpayer funding!
All proposed facilities, except the new landfill, will form a resource recovery center at a familiar and centralized location adjacent to the existing landfill (near S. Taft Hill Road & W. Trilby Road).
- The trash transfer station will provide a high level of convenience and safety to customers with a new entrance and separate lanes for commercial and self-haul visitors.
- A modern, sanitary landfill will be built on a section of County-owned land in northern Larimer County and will predominantly accept trash from the Central Transfer Station (including landfill waste from Fort Collins).
The proposed Regional Wasteshed Coalition Master Plan calls for new policies and programs to be implemented in Fort Collins and Larimer County. These policies will help drive material to the proposed County-owned facilities and help ensure that they are financially viable.
Flow Control for Construction and Demolition Debris (C&D)
All mixed loads of construction and demolition debris must be sent to a County-owned processing facility for a period of ten years (projects over 1,000sf).
Yard Trimmings and Food Scraps Diversion
Municipalities would be expected to develop policies and programs appropriate for their community to divert green waste from landfills.
Ordinance for Flow Control of Construction & Demolition Waste
One of the specific new policies that the Solid Waste Infrastructure Master Plan calls for is flow control for construction and demolition (C&D) waste. "Flow control" is a legal requirement that all waste material of a certain type, be delivered to a certain place.
Fort Collins City Council adopted building code amendments in May 2019 that institute flow control for mixed loads of C&D waste. It requires this type of material be delivered to a future recycling center, which will be built by Larimer County specifically to sort out C&D waste material for recovery and sale back into the regional economy.
This policy was a necessary first step for Larimer County to build the C&D recycling center and it eliminated the "chicken and egg" problem. (I.e., not sensible to adopt a policy for C&D waste without a facility; not feasible to build a facility without policy to drive material to it.)
Some details about flow control for C&D waste in Fort Collins:
- Although the building codes were changed in 2019, the flow control requirement would only be triggered by completion of an operational County facility (by 2023)
- Requirement will be in effect for ten years from when the new facility begins accepting materials
- New system will provide the convenience of “all in one bin” collection service for C&D waste
- Waste hauling companies will still be able to provide “business as usual” service in which recyclables are separated at the job site, if preferred.
The Larimer County Landfill is forecast to reach capacity and stop accepting waste in 2024. The process to design, permit, and construct new facilities can take years, so in 2015, a Regional Wasteshed Coalition was formed to discuss what comes after the current landfill closes.
Unprecedented regional collaboration for solid waste planning has yielded a "Regional Wasteshed Plan for Solid Waste Infrastructure", a master plan for new infrastructure that can divert significant waste from landfills without capital investment from the City of Fort Collins. To support this project, the role of municipalities in the region is to adopt policies and programs that will deliver materials to the new County-owned resource recovery facilities.
What is a Wasteshed?
The term "wasteshed" is used to describe an area where waste, much like water or air, does not adhere to normal boundaries. The regional wasteshed of Colorado's North Front Range is an area in and around Larimer County, including all solid waste generated by residents and businesses from the cities, towns, and unincorporated areas.
Regional Wasteshed Coalition
The Regional Wasteshed Coalition is made up of staff and elected representatives from Fort Collins, Loveland, Estes Park, and Larimer County. Throughout a rigorous, multi-year planning process, the Coalition worked with stakeholders and the public to research and propose new facilities to construct and open before the County landfill closes.
Regional Wasteshed Planning Timeline
The planning process included extensive analysis of:
- Current and future regional solid waste volumes
- Emerging technologies for resource recovery
- Recommended infrastructure elements
- Including triple-bottom line and market impacts
- Policies to support new facilities
Eleven possible solid waste infrastructure options were identified for analysis and narrowed down to the five new facilities recommended based on cost-benefit ratio, timeframe to complete, and projected tipping fees.
The first phase of the project focused on information gathering.
- A preliminary Regional Wasteshed Planning Study was researched and prepared in 2016 to better understand how much solid waste is generated in the region, where it goes, and what options exist for after 2025. Read the full report.
- During the summer of 2016 more than 1,200 Larimer County residents responded to a survey regarding their recycling habits and attitudes. Read the summary report.
- Survey responses and information from the Planning Study were used to design public forums, four of which were held with the help of CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation.
- A two-season “waste characterization” study of material accepted for disposal at the Larimer County Landfill was conducted in 2016. A major finding of the waste sort was that organics (yard trimmings and food scraps), as well as construction and demolition materials, offer a significant opportunity for waste diversion. Read the full report.
Throughout Fort Collins valuable resources are currently being buried in landfills, as shown in the figure to the left and in the 2017 Waste & Recycling Report. To help meet community diversion goals and serve the region for decades to come new facilities are outlined in the new master plan, The proposed facilities are projected to divert as much as 40% of what is currently landfilled, delivering useable products back into the regional economy.
The second phase of the project focused on setting unified goals for the process and assessing options for new facilities and programs. Adopted Wasteshed Goals:
- Establish regional materials management system
- Implement solid waste programs and facilities
- Develop waste diversion/reduction goals for all jurisdictions
- Conduct strong, consistent public education and outreach
A Stakeholder Advisory Group met throughout 2017 to assist the Coalition by reviewing relevant technical and policy information.
Eleven possible solid waste infrastructure options we identified and each option was evaluated to determine its benefits and costs using a triple-bottom line modeling tool to calculate financial, environmental, and social impacts. Other considerations include capital costs, timeframe to complete, projected disposal costs, and portion of the waste-stream handled.
Infrastructure Options Evaluated
- Central Transfer Station
- New County Landfill
- Yard Waste Composting Facility
- Food Waste Composting Facility
- Construction and Demolition (C&D) Processing Facility
- “Clean” Material Recovery Facility (MRF)
- Food Waste Pre-processing Facility for Anaerobic Digestion
- Direct Combustion Energy-from-waste Facility
- Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) Energy-from-waste Facility
- “Dirty” Mixed-Waste Material Recovery Facility
- Status Quo (Do Nothing Upon Landfill Closure)
Map of proposed resource recovery facility, located just south of the existing landfill complex (near S. Taft Hill Road & W. Trilby Road).
The Coalition worked closely with stakeholders and members of the public in developing the proposed Master Plan.
- A Stakeholder Advisory Group met seven times between May 2017 and September 2018 to provide input and review technical and policy information produced by coalition staff.
- Over 50 stakeholders were invited to participate from key sectors including: the business community, academia, regional governments, waste haulers and recyclers, boards and commissions, state agencies, and advocacy groups.
- Coalition staff met directly with local waste haulers throughout the project to seek feedback and discuss impacts on their operations.
- Staff engaged with numerous boards and community groups and they provided feedback throughout the project.
- Four open houses were held in May of 2018 throughout the County to educate the public about the topic and seek input to the plan.
- Why are new solid waste facilities being proposed now?
The Larimer County Landfill is forecast to reach capacity and stop accepting waste materials by 2024. The process to design, permit, and construct new facilities can take years so a final decision on what should replace it must be made now to allow enough time for new facilities to be operational before the landfill closes.
- What is a Wasteshed?
The term "Wasteshed" is used to describe an area where waste, much like water or air, does not adhere to normal boundaries. The regional Wasteshed of Colorado's North Front Range is an area in and around Larimer County, including all solid waste generated by residents and businesses from the cities, towns, and unincorporated areas.
- What is the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA)?
The intergovernmental agreement (IGA) is a foundational document that enables Fort Collins to participate in the Regional Wasteshed Coalition for the long-term. It outlines how the communities can work together to trigger infrastructure development through a combination of code changes and programs to drive waste materials to resource recovery facilities. The IGA does not commit the parties to take specific actions; it is left up to each community to consider appropriate, local diversion policy. Larimer County will wait to initiate development of the food scrap composting facility, construction and demolition waste sorting facility, and the recycling center upgrade until it is clear that each facility will receive enough waste material to be viable.
- What Facilities are Being Proposed?
- Transfer Station – Convenient trash drop-off for both residents and trash haulers in separate traffic lines.
- Recycling Center (Upgrades) – Improvements to the existing facility that handles mixed recycling.
- Construction and Demolition (C&D) Debris Sorting – A covered facility that sorts out mixed loads of materials from building sites (such as wood, metal, and concrete, etc.).
- Yard Waste Composting – Windrow composting system that turns yard trimmings (leaves, branches, grass, etc.) into a valuable soil amendment (compost).
- Food Waste Composting – An enclosed composting system that turns food scraps into a valuable soil amendment (compost).
- New Landfill – A modern sanitary landfill for containing garbagw.
- How were these new facilities chosen?
Over the last several years a coalition of regional governments has conducted rigorous analysis, with input from key stakeholders and the community. The five new facilities being proposed were selected based on several factors:
- total cost-benefit ratio,
- projected disposal fees,
- whether they would be operational before the current landfill closes (2024 forecast), and
- how they align with the established goals of the landfill replacement planning process.
Additional options for solid waste infrastructure that did not meet these criteria at this time were identified and will be assessed for feasibility regularly by a regional Advisory Council.
- How much waste material could be diverted from landfilling if these new facilities are built?
It is estimated that as much as 40% of the materials currently being sent to landfills could be diverted by the proposed resource recovery facilities.
- Would the County use my tax dollars to build these new facilities?
No. The capital needed for new facilities (approximately $56 million) would come from existing funds and financing managed by the Larimer County Solid Waste Department. Municipalities would offer support through partnership and policy rather than financial contribution. Future revenue needed for operation of the facilities would be generated by user fees.
- How would the proposed changes affect my trash bill?
Cost impacts to existing trash collection service are expected to be very small. Future costs for new services will vary for each community. The closing of the only publicly-owned landfill in the region will lead to disposal rate changes with or without new facilities. Waste haulers set their own rates for collection services in Fort Collins and will adjust their pricing as needed in response to new rates and rules. Research indicates an average monthly cost increase of less than 10% for trash collection service. This is because disposal costs are only a small part of the costs to haul waste materials.
- Are new rules needed for waste handling and disposal in this proposal?
Yes, policies are needed to direct mixed construction and demolition debris and mixed curbside recyclables to the recycling centers to kick-start markets for those materials and encourage investment in these facilities. Participating towns and cities would need to develop programs and policies appropriate for their community to encourage yard trimmings and food scraps recycling at local private and public facilities.
No new rules are proposed for how or where trash is disposed.
Proposed policy to support Larimer County infrastructure investments:
- Flow Control for Construction and Demolition Debris (C&D)
- All mixed loads of construction and demolition debris must be sent to a County-owned processing facility for a period of ten years.
- Yard Trimmings and Food Scraps Diversion
- Municipalities expected to explore policies and programs appropriate for their community to divert green waste from landfills.
- Flow Control for Construction and Demolition Debris (C&D)
- Would the new facilities be operated by Larimer County staff?
Still to be determined. Public-private partnerships may be established for facility operation.
- Would I have to drive my trash that is too big for curbside pickup to a new landfill north of Wellington?
No. The new resource recovery center proposed just south of the existing landfill (at Trilby and South Taft Hill roads) would include a transfer station for trash, so residents can continue to dispose of materials at this familiar location right between Fort Collins and Loveland.
- What current services would remain?
- Larimer County would continue to host recycling and household hazardous waste drop-off.
- The Timberline Recycling Center would continue to provide recycling services for everyday recycling and hard-to-recycle materials.
- Convenience centers in Wellington, Red Feather Lakes, and Estes Park would continue to accept waste material from the public.
- Convenient trash drop-off at a state-of-the art transfer station will be easily accessible to visitors as well as drop off for green waste and construction materials.