Tons of recyclables in Utah sent to wrong places daily, recovery facility explores solutions

Posted at 9:51 PM, Aug 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-05 23:51:12-04

DAVIS COUNTY, Utah -- The average Utah resident throws away about a ton and a half of trash each year--and a lot of it does not end up where it's supposed to.

This week, at least two counties are trying to clean up their act by enhancing the Davis Energy Recovery Facility. Every day, about 420 tons of garbage is unloaded there, but about 15 percent of it doesn't belong because it should be recycled.

This week, GRG Analysis is sifting through barrels and barrels of trash, documenting just how much recyclable materials, from Davis and Morgan counties, ends up being lumped in with the general waste.

"We have it in categories: there's metals, there's plastics, there's food, yard waste--we have about 20 different categories that it gets sorted into," said Judy Gilow of GRG Analysis.

This study is being conducted by the Wasatch Integrated Waste Management District, which is made up of 15 cities in Davis and Morgan counties that dump their waste at the facility every day.

"Recycling we find is really a matter of convenience, about half of the cities in our district have curbside recycling cans and about half don't," said Nathan Rich, Executive Director of Wasatch Integrated Waste.

Inevitably, between 40 and 70 tons of recyclables end up at the facility each day with the rest of the real trash, which is burnt at 2,000 degrees and sold to Hill Air Force base as reusable steam energy.

When things like glass, batteries and grass clippings end up in the furnace, it can be problematic--which is why Wasatch Integrated Waste is desperate to keep them out.

"It costs more money because we are processing material through the waste energy facility that doesn't burn," Rich said. "We also believe if we pull the grass clipping out, we'll have better air emissions. The ash will have less odor at our landfill, which is in a neighborhood in the city of Layton,"

The plan is to invest $3.5 million into a conveyer belt system along a corridor, which will filter out the recyclables.

"Along this line there will be a screen, and that has 2-inch holes in it where we will be screening the waste out," Rich said. "We'll have an elevated platform with picking stations on it, so we'll have people there visually identifying and removing recyclable material."

Currently this is the only waste-to-energy facility in the state, and those in charge want it to be as efficient as possible.

"So there is an opportunity to put a project together here that will allow us to do the recycling and let people put all their waste into a single container instead of having to segregate it," Rich said.

The new equipment should be installed and ready to go by April 2016.