Pitkin County will soon launch its Construction and Demolition Debris Recovery Program in an effort to extend the life of the landfill by rerouting unnecessary waste away from it.
According to Pitkin County Construction and Demolition (C&D) Diversion Specialist Michael Port, had the county’s landfill continued to operate as it does today, it would have reached the end of its lifespan in five years.
“Right now, without any expansion — and we are looking at expanding — we have about five years left of our current space,” Port said in an interview Monday. “We would have to cap it off.”
In April, the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners adopted an ordinance that added new construction and demolition diversion regulations to the health and safety portion of the county’s code. The ordinance’s purpose was simple: reduce the amount of debris coming into the landfill from construction and demolition projects and, in turn, extend its lifespan.
According to a county staff report, in 2019, the Pitkin Solid Waste Center accepted more than 30,000 tons of construction and demolition debris.
“Here in Pitkin County, we actually see quite a bit more of our waste stream coming from the construction sector,” Port said. “The national average is about 30% of waste coming from construction — here in Pitkin County, it ranges anywhere from like 50% to 60%, given the year. So this is a really big impact area on our landfill.”
The commissioners’ ordinance laid the groundwork for the C&D Debris Recovery Program, which will launch on Monday. The solid waste center collaborated with the community development department to integrate the county’s building and demolition permit process.
“This program kind of takes components from some other communities — for instance, Palo Alto.” Port said in a nod to the Silicon Valley city. “There are some [other] communities in California that have similar programs that we modeled after.”
The county has also partnered with California-based software company Green Halo Systems, which will provide its construction waste tracking platform to local construction teams free of charge.
According to a news release issued Tuesday, in order to obtain a Pitkin County building or demolition permit, one will now pay a deposit based upon the project’s estimated waste.
“These waste estimates are generally just done based on the square footage,” Port said. “The more you aim to recycle, the less the deposit is.”
A building or demolition permit applicant would be required to put down a $1,000-per-ton deposit, based on the estimated tonnage of debris the project would produce. If the project successfully diverts “at least 25%” of its construction debris and avoids disposing of recyclable materials such as concrete and scrap metal, the county would fully refund the applicant’s deposit.
According to Port, should a building or demolition project not divert at least 25% of its estimated debris, its deposit would be partially refunded or not refunded at all.
“We are just trying to give different ways to keep materials out of the landfill because we are running out of space very quickly,” Port said. “Like I said, we see about 50% or 60% of what goes in our landfill, every year, from construction. So if we can cut that down by 25%, that’s going to give us definitely a significant impact.”