Danedri Thompson
The Johnson County Landfill’s life may be extended.
Just last year, the Johnson County Board of Commissioners adopted new

A Gardner Disposal employee rides through town on the side of a garbage truck last August.County officials approved new regulations because the landfillwas reaching capacity, but a new study suggests otherwise. File photo

countywide solid waste regulations, in part, because estimates suggested the landfill would reach capacity and close by 2027.
As recently as August 2010 – prior to the passage of more stringent solid waste regulations – Betsy Betros, Pollution Control Director for the Johnson County Environmental Department, told the Gardner News the landfill would likely be filled before its anticipated closing date in 2027.
According to a new study, that may not be the case. Instead, a recent study commissioned by Defenbaugh suggests the landfill’s capacity may extend through 2043. An independent consulting firm hired by the city of Shawnee and Johnson County to double check Defenbaugh’s assessment confirmed the study’s findings.
Calvin Hayden, who represents Gardner, Edgerton and De Soto on the county commission, voted against the new regulations last fall. He said he didn’t think the need for the new regulations was a pressing as they said it was.
“I kind of feel like it was much ado about nothing,” he said.
He believes the new regulations will lead to higher trash collection rates for western Johnson County.
“Granted, it’s the green thing to do, and I think everybody understands that, but when it increases the costs to our citizens there are other options,” he said. “I think their goal was to extend the landfill as long as they could. I’m opposed to extending it when it’s a private corporation at taxpayer expense, basically.”
Betros said the short-term life of the landfill was “the red flag that got us all talking seriously” about new codes to extend the life of the landfill. However, she admits the landfill may have had a longer life than previously anticipated even without the new regulations.
The new codes, which take effect in Jan. 1, 2012, require residential trash haulers to offer curbside recycling at no additional cost, and charge customers based on the volume of waste they put on the curb. Haulers will also be prohibited from disposing of yard waste in the landfill.
Diverting yard waste from the landfill, the addition of curbside recycling, and better compaction rates should add life to the landfill.
“But estimating landfill life is a challenge,” Betros explained. “There’s a lot of science, but there’s a lot of art to it as well.”
When county officials first began considering tighter waste regulations, the recession was not yet in full swing. That, she said, has contributed to significantly less garbage being sent to the landfill.
“Some things were not anticipated – like the recession – we’ve just had a huge decrease in the amount of trash landfills are accepting throughout the country,” she explained.
If Shawnee’s council approves an extension to Defenbaugh’s special use permit, the footprint of Defenbaugh’s widely-used Johnson County Landfill will not increase. Betros said the company will instead maximize the existing space. For example, Defenbaugh will use what used to be office space at the site for refuse.
“That area was always on the drawing board to be landfilled,” Betros said. “And now they’re getting close to that point.”
The extended life of the landfill benefits the entire Kansas City Metro area.
“We don’t have to dig up 900 acres somewhere else,” she said.
Ultimately, the point of the new codes is to create a sustainable solid waste management solution, she explained.
“The great desire would be that land filling would become the last recourse…
Just throwing stuff in the ground is not sustainable,” she said.
“It’s an old way to handle our waste and we need to look at our waste as a resource. Nature is all about recycling.”