Transforming a Landfill into a Model of Sustainability

Publish Date: 2015

Cathleen Hall, S.C., Solid Waste Manager, Pitkin County

The Pitkin County Landfill in Colorado diverts nearly 60 percent of its material for recycling or reuse, and many of its programs can be replicated at sites across the country. The landfill has approximately 19 years of capacity remaining, and given the affluent nature of the area and the cost of land, there will not be another landfill in the County. This makes diversion and recycling critical for the community.

This webinar presented a detailed overview of the programs involved, the costs and benefits, as well as future projects planned to increase diversion. The presentation highlights system challenges and how a profit is made through the diversion programs.

Diversion programs include single stream recycling at public collection centers, a large scale composting operation, creating a soil and aggregate product from dirt and rock that was destined for the landfill, latex paint recycling, a "Drop and Swap" re-use area, and a year round electronics collection and recycling program.

In 2013, Pitkin County diverted 200,000 pounds of e-waste, created and sold 2,700 tons of compost, recycled 700 gallons of latex paint, and diverted 85,000 tons of soil and rock from the landfill to be made into a topsoil and aggregate product for sale. This webinar discusses how this was accomplished and at a profit.

In the spring of 2014, a Living Lab Workshop series was launched to promote sustainability education for the public. These free workshops take place at the Landfill and provide hands-on approach to waste and sustainability. There is also a sustainability lab at the Landfill, which includes gardens and greenhouses for growing food and native plants. Adults and children alike can see firsthand the topsoil and compost material (all diverted from the Landfill) at work.

In addition to these great programs, Landfill staff are actively engaged with the community by conducting site tours and visiting schools and other community groups to educate on the importance of sustainability and waste diversion. In 2014, they worked with an app developer to create an interactive magazine to teach school kids about composting. The app was made available to local schools in the fall of 2014.

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