It is estimated that over 75 percent of the municipal solid waste Lyons residents and businesses create goes to a landfill. This is a problem.
It is a problem that these wastes are dumped in a landfill in Weld County, and as growth in the region continues, the landfill is filling up.
It’s also a problem that the raw materials and much of the energy used to produce the single-use bottles and cans, plastic bags, Styrofoam, and other convenience items that are landfilled are finite and can be harmful to people and the environment.
It’s really a problem that our food scraps and yard waste that go to the dump are buried by more garbage and decompose anaerobically to produce a greenhouse gas that’s 80 times more potent than CO2 (methane).
What’s the best solution to these problems? It’s to consume less–much, much less.
While this solution is both elegant and simple, our lives are more disheveled than elegant, and more complex than simple. The demands that we place on ourselves, or that are placed on us, are significant barriers to making large-scale shifts in our personal consumptive behaviors. We need other solutions to address these problems that will affect our children’s futures. We can’t keep our heads in the sand on this issue and pretend we’re not part of the problem.
On April 7, Lyons will be asked to cast a vote for or against a Single Hauler Pay As You Throw (PAYT) ordinance that will provide residential curbside trash, recycling, and organic compost collection services. If approved, this action will single-handedly increase our residential solid waste diversion rate by 50 percent or more while giving the majority of residents more services (trash, recycling and organic materials collection) for less than the cost of having trash and recyclables picked up and hauled away.
For those unfamiliar with the single-hauler PAYT ballot measure: In setting the stage for the April vote, the town solicited requests for proposals for competitive bids that sought to identify whether a waste hauler could offer curbside residential trash, recycling, and organic yard and food waste (i.e. compost) collection at a price that was equal to or less than what the majority of residents currently pay. Two local waste haulers (Western Disposal and One Way) submitted proposals which were then evaluated by the Board of Trustees during public hearings. Western’s proposal won out. (Because of the economies of scale necessary for a small town like Lyons to have curbside trash, recycling, and organics collection at the lowest cost, an exclusive single-hauler arrangement is necessary).
There have been discussions about PAYT on our local social media forums, during the recent candidates’ forum, right here in the Recorder, and also between neighbors and friends. This is great, as it befits the importance of this issue. For those who haven’t yet, I’d encourage you to do your own research to understand what is true and what is unfounded or hearsay before you vote. Talk to one or more trustees. Our trustees have spent a lot of time on this subject. Another person who is knowledgeable is the town’s sustainability coordinator.
Take a look at your current trash bill. Is the cost, given the scope of services currently provided, better, worse, or the same as the negotiated prices below, understanding that there is currently no organics collection available in Lyons?
For weekly trash and bi-weekly recycling and organics pick-up
32-gallon trash bin: $18/month
64-gallon trash bin: $31/month
96-gallon trash bin: $44/month
Some residents have voiced objections to the lack of choice if the single-hauler PAYT is approved. In this regard they are correct. Western Disposal, if the April ballot measure is approved, would be given exclusive rights to provide solid waste services within the Town of Lyons. In exchange, the company has agreed to the pricing and services outlined above.
What often gets lost in these debates is whether a cost-effective, comprehensive solid waste services agreement is indeed in the best interest of the community. The debate of whether a voter-approved, single-hauler system constitutes government overreach or a directive by the people to the town is immaterial. Lyons prides itself on having a strong commitment to the environment, and I believe that this ordinance is an extension of this pledge. Aside from buying less stuff, driving electric cars, and installing solar on our roofs, PAYT that includes organics is objectively the biggest sustainability action that we can take part in as members of the Lyons community.
Finally, this effort to implement a program that will increase Lyons’ solid waste diversion rate isn’t occurring in a vacuum. PAYT has been adopted in many municipalities in the region and the U.S., so it’s not a new, radical idea with unattainable goals. Colorado is also considering legislation that will support and incentivize stronger municipal waste diversion policies, so the impetus for change certainly exists.
On April 7, it will be up to each of us to decide whether Lyons has a responsibility to develop a results-oriented solution for all the garbage we dispose of, or if we’ll continue kicking that figurative recyclable can back into the landfill for future generations to deal with. It is not unreasonable to require people to pay more the more they put into a landfill and not recycle or compost. It’s your choice. I’m voting for PAYT.
The Lyons Recorder welcomes letters to the editor. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.