The costs of filling a landfill

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Once a landfill is full, costs associated to waste disposal spike.

Fayetteville, Ark. (KNWA) — Throwing an item in the trash is often much cheaper than recycling, at least in the short term.

waste collected in Fayetteville

So far this year, Fayetteville has thrown 46,000 tons of waste into the Tontitown Landfill compared to about 3,200 tons recycled. The waste reduction coordinator for the City of Fayetteville would like to see a lot more recycling.

“Getting a value of $100 a ton versus paying $50 a ton for landfill disposal. That’s the difference,” Waste Reduction Coordinator with the City of Fayetteville Brian Pugh said.

And the city thinks it’s definitely doable.

“Right now we have about a 20% diversion rate. That’s made up of last time I checked about 9% recycling and 11% compost,” Environmental Director with Fayetteville Peter Nierengarten said.

“About 30% of the waste in Fayetteville is food waste and if we can work with businesses and residents in the future to divert that from their waste stream then we should see some real diversion,” Pugh said.

2014 EPA report on increasing tipping fees.

But for now, 80% of our waste ends up in the landfill. Pugh says it costs the city $50 a ton to use the Tontitown Landfill. Nationwide that cost is rising. According to the EPA, the average in the south-central U.S. nearly 20 years ago was $22 a ton.

And Pugh says you need to look long-term, especially since Tontitown has the areas only landfill.

“The cost of landfilling of waste here in Northwest Arkansas is going up because we have one landfill that will be filling up in roughly 20-25 years,” he said.

Once that is full, there are more costs.

“We’ll have to ship that waste to another location and those costs will go higher at that point,” Pugh said.

2014 EPA report detailing the costs of constructing a landfill.

According to a 2014 report by the EPA, just the design and permit process for a new landfill can cost $750,000. Then, construction costs can add up to another $770,000 per acre. That is one of the reasons the city wants to make sure recyclables stay out of the trash.

“Contamination is a real issue in recycling,” Pugh said.

Pugh says you need to keep your recyclables clean and stay up on what is recyclable.

“We leave a lot of materials at the curb that are not really recyclable. In particular with the plastics, people want to recycle every piece of plastic that they can. But the reality of the markets today are that they want bottles,” he said.

Recycling, however, comes with some major up-front costs. To see our report on that, click here.

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