Danedri Thompson
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Johnson County residents could see higher trash bills if the Johnson County Board of Commissioners approves a proposed solid waste management plan.
County officials are considering a proposal that would require trash haulers to offer curbside recycling to all residents at no additional costs. The proposal would also limit the amount of trash residents could have hauled away without extra charges and bar yard waste from being hauled to landfills.
Gardner Disposal offers curbside recycling to its customers, however the service costs an additional monthly fee of $5. Tim Henry, part owner of Gardner Disposal, said if the county plan is implemented all customers will likely see an increase in cost.

A Gardner Disposal employee rides through town on the back of a trash truck Wednesday afternoon. All Johnson County residents could see higher trash bills if an updated solid waste management plan is approved by the Johnson County Board of Commissioners in September. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

“To offer the recycling, you’ll have to raise the price of the trash service to include recycling services,” Henry said. “We won’t be able to show it as a special fee.”
Kansas counties are required to create solid waste management plans. Betsy Betros, Pollution Control Director for the Johnson County Environmental Department, said officials realized it was time for a local update to codes, because the largest landfill serving the metro area will likely be filled before its anticipated closing date of 2027.
Deffenbaugh’s landfill near Lake Quivira in Johnson County is widely used by haulers in Johnson County and in the Kansas City Metro area. Its permit of operation is set to expire in 2027, but officials believe if refuse is dumped there at its current rate, it will fill up long before then – maybe within the next 10 years.
“That really sent up the red flags throughout the entire metro area that we needed to move from the status quo to something that’s more sustainable,” Betros said. “We’re throwing away our future.”
Gerald Hay, county communications director, said the process to create a new landfill takes approximately 10 years.
“Who knows where Johnson County’s next landfill is going to be,” he said. “It’s probably going to be outside of the county, but to create a new landfill is a 10 year process. What we’re trying to do with these regulations is prolong the life of this landfill.”
The proposed changes require that garbage hauling companies be liscensed through the county to operate. Haulers will be required to limit the amount of trash they pick up each week.
“They’re going to be required to offer a pay-as-you-go,” Betros explained. “The idea is to treat trash like it’s a utility. The more you put out, the more you should be charged.”
Betros said the easiest way to compute the maximum capacity is equate it to three, 33 gallon bags. But most haulers will likely provide 95 gallon trash bins.
Henry said most people in two person households typically don’t generate more than one or two 30-gallon trash bags.

Gardner Disposal employees empty garbage cans into a trash truck on Wednesday afternoon. The local hauler offers curbside recycling for an addiitional $5 per month. Offering recycling will become mandatory if new waste management regulations are adopted by the county. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

“It really depends on the family,” he said. “If a family has two or three kids, it’s two or three bags and maybe a bunch of boxes. Of course, most of that trash is potentially recyclable.”
Henry said most haulers will likely require that the extra charge for exceeding the 95 gallon limit be pre-paid. Many haulers may offer pre-paid stickers that can be attached to additional bags or offer higher priced monthly service charges for family’s that sign up for it.
“I think it’s going to be kind of hard for certain haulers,” Henry said. “If you go by route sheets, you’re going to have to go down the street and say this guy only gets one, this guy gets two. This guy gets two, but he’s got three out but he didn’t purchase a sticker. It’s going to be a lot more technical going down the streets.”
Although the haulers will be required to offer the service, people won’t be required to recycle.
“If you still don’t want to recycle, you don’t have to,” Betros said. “But you’re going to be provided the bin and we hope a number of people will jump on board.”
Under the proposal, haulers must offer curbside recycling at no additional cost. But, Henry said, offering recycling isn’t free for the service providers.
Haulers will need to put more trucks on the road to offer the service – especially if they’re not offering curbside recycling already.
“You have to add another truck, another person, the insurance, the fuel,” Henry said. “It’s not a money-making proposition. We’re just hoping we can get close to breaking even on it.”
At a later date, the proposal would prohibit yard waste from being dumped in the landfill. Henry said he is very supportive of the yard waste ban – scheduled to start in 2012 if the plan is approved. Other mandates would start as early as January 2011.
“If it’s really an issue that the Deffenbaugh landfill is filling up, why don’t they start the ban on yard waste at the first of 2011 rather than waiting another year to put the ban in?” he said.
When and if yard waste is banned, Henry said he doesn’t know how his haulers will inspect customers’ garbage.
“I’m not sure how our loads are going to be inspected,” Henry said. “But if I have to answer to somebody, I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye on people trying to sneak yard waste in with their trash.”
Communities in Johnson County will be required to follow the proposed guidelines, if approved. And Betros said they’ll have the option to make stricter regulations.
“We’re hoping a lot of communities will stick with a smaller size limit,” she said. “The city of Mission has 65 gallon limit. Once you start moving stuff to the recycling, it’s amazing. You have next to no trash left.”
Betros said her department is pushing for the changes to the solid waste plan because it’s the right thing to do.
“This is just good business for the future,” she said. “Throwing away everything is not sustainable. If you consider that probably 75 percent of what we throw away can have a second life – why aren’t we doing more? We should be diverting as much as possible for reuse.”