Going the distance: Hauling costs rise to reach Haywood’s far-flung landfillWritten by Caitlin Bowling
Town residents in Haywood County will almost certainly see the cost of their garbage service go up this year when the county shuts down its central trash dump.
Starting in July, towns will have to haul their residents’ trash all the way out to the White Oak landfill, an added burden with no easy solution. The extra distance will mean more gas and more hours on the road for town trash trucks. Towns also could be forced to buy additional trucks and hire more garbage men as a result.
Towns in Haywood County will focus this month on how to deal with the closure of the county’s trash transfer station. The station serves as a mid-way drop-off site in Clyde where garbage trucks can ditch their loads. The county then piles that trash into a tractor-trailer and drives it the rest of the way to the landfill, a 30-minute one-way haul to White Oak near the Tennessee state line.
The county is closing the transfer station as a cost saving measure, forcing towns to pick up the trek to White Oak. The change also applies to commercial garbage haulers and industries with large trash volumes. County residents, however, can continue to use one of the many convenience stations located throughout the county and will not have to haul their trash to White Oak.
Most towns are still analyzing the potential costs of their various options.
“We haven’t decided anything yet,” said Daryl Hannah, Waynesville’s Street Supervisor.
Hannah expects the town to make a decision in the next month, however.
Waynesville’s recycling dreams
Waynesville officials are hoping on recycling will reduce the amount of trash it has to haul to White Oak.
“Recycling will definitely help,” Hannah said. “It will not only help us but will help the landfill as well.”
More recycling means less trash that town trucks must haul to the landfill — which could partially offset the cost of additional trash trucks and garbage men while extending the life of the landfill.
About 60 percent of households in Waynesville recycle but only 5 percent of the garbage generated by the town is recycled.
While any increase in recycling will help, the town would need to reuse about half of its waste to negate the increased cost and workload of running its trash out to White Oak.
“I’m not sure we could recycle that much,” Galloway said.
One rationale for the low numbers — despite curbside recycling in town — is that people don’t know what is recyclable. What can be recycled by the county seemed to constantly change for a few years.
“Some people just got discouraged and quit all together,” Galloway said.
Other people simply did not want to buy the required blue-colored bags, which distinguish recyclables from refuse. Galloway said that Waynesville residents can also use clear bags for their recycled materials — as long as collectors can tell the difference between garbage and recyclables.
The town made an appeal to residents to ratchet up their recycling in the latest town newsletter but do not have a specific recycling campaign planned at this time.
“I just don’t know right now what more we can do (beyond public education efforts),” Galloway said.
The town is continuing to look at how other municipalities have successfully increased their recycling. Waynesville officials have talked to recycling companies, which would collect and promote recycling in town, and studied places that have upped their recycling numbers by charging residents a small fee.
It seems counterintuitive, but people will start recycling or increase their loads if they are automatically charged for the service, Galloway said, adding that he would rather not increase residents’ detritus fee.
Waynesville isn’t ruling out anything yet. It could end up being cheaper to haul town trash to a private landfill in Buncombe County. Or, Waynesville, Canton and Clyde have discussed operating their own transfer station, sharing the cost among themselves and private haulers rather than each making the long haul to White Oak individually.
But Galloway thinks running their own transfer station would likely be more trouble than its worth.
The Town of Waynesville will review recommendations on how it should handle its refuse at one of its town board meetings this month.
Although no town officials knew how much that would cost overall, Galloway said new garbage trucks cost about $180,000 a piece.
And, unless the landfill is upgraded, the towns will also be forking out a lot more truck repairs and maintenance. Currently, garbage trucks must navigate through piles of trash to dump their loads at the landfill. When a mild rain or snow makes the way impassable, trucks must be towed in and out of the landfill by bulldozers, which can damage the trucks.
Canton’s long haul
The Town of Canton is grappling with whether to privatize its town garbage service, outsourcing the town trash department to a private company. Town officials are currently analyzing their options, said Town Manager Al Matthews.
Canton is in a particular tough position because it is the farthest from the landfill — with an additional 40 miles round-trip — about an hour of time — added the journey of each trash truck.
The town currently takes at least three trips to the transfer station each day. That’s an extra three hours a day. The existing trash trucks and crews can’t fit those extra hours into their existing workweek and still make all 1,583 trash stops in town.
“We have some ideas what it will cost,” Matthews said.
On average, other towns pay $10 to $11 per stop, he said.
At those rates, Canton would have to shell out more than $180,000 a year for trash collection. The town’s trash budget is currently $185,000 a year. While privatizing trash pick-up wouldn’t necessarily save the town any money, it may avoid what will otherwise be an increase in costs when the town has to start hauling to White Oak.
Outsourcing garbage collection would require a one-time fee of about $125,000 to outfit each house in town with a standardized $80 garbage can.
Maggie Valley in the clear
Maggie Valley is the only town that does not have to worry about the transfer station closing thanks to the town’s geographic proximity to White Oak.
“It’s not much difference for us,” said Mike Mehaffey, Maggie Valley’s director of public works. “It’s not much farther to go to the landfill.”
The town contracts with Consolidated Waste Service to haul its trash and had already factored in the possibility that it might need to take the refuse a few extra miles. So, the flat fee rate Maggie Valley pays Consolidated Waste Service will remain the same — $7,529.05 per month.
The considerably smaller town of Clyde also contracts out its trash collection, but the change in dumping location could increase the contractor’s asking price. Compared to Maggie Valley, Clyde is considerably farther away from White Oak.
Prior to the county-level procedure change, Hanson Waste simply drove down the street to the county transfer station.
Town Administrator Joy Garland said Clyde officials are in the process of tabulating how much more the extra miles will cost and whether the town should put the job out for bid.
Clyde currently pays Hanson Waste $2,850 a month to dispose of its trash, Garland said. The number was based on an estimated 505 stops.
Why the trash talk?
Haywood County officials hope to save $800,000 a year by shutting down the county’s trash transfer station, a move that is two years in the making and will go into effect this July.
In addition to annual operating costs, the county would have faced a $1.8 million expense to replace the rusted and broken bailer, which compacts trash to fit as much as possible in a landfill-bound tractor-trailer.
The county commissioners argued that the transfer station only benefits those who have town trash pick-up or pay a private hauler. However, towns said that the closure creates a quandary for them and their residents. Town residents will still have to subsidize their trash disposal while county residents will not. Currently, both groups play $92 a year to use the landfill.
County residents who do not have trash pick up can drop their trash at one of 10 convenience centers, and the county hauls it the remainder of the way to White Oak. The county will continue to operate the centers at a cost of $680,000.