Green Guide

Landfill wins award for painting over trash daily

Posted September 2

— A problem that started with dirt and was solved with paint has earned the landfill an award for innovation, and Mesa County has the first waste-management team in Colorado to repurpose old paint to save money, time and resources.

The North American Hazardous Materials Management Association awarded the Mesa County Solid Waste Management team the Program Innovation Award for using discarded latex paint in daily landfill operations as a cover for the trash, required by the state.

The solution not only repurposes a significant amount of waste product that comes into the landfill's Household Hazardous Materials Unit every year, it also saves money and time.

Previously, the landfill was using dirt to cover up the trash mound at the end of the day, according to Jennifer Richardson, the department's regulatory compliance manager.

At the same time, it was collecting the paint from residents at the hazardous waste collection facility, keeping it out of the landfill and saving it for proper disposal off-site, which costs money.

Richardson estimates they were receiving about 9,000 gallons of paint per year — mostly in the color scheme of taupe and beige.

The landfill had a problem, though, and the problem wasn't the paint.

"We have a soil deficit," Richardson said, meaning the landfill doesn't have enough soil to keep using it to cover up the trash every day.

State regulations required covering the trash with 6 inches of soil every day to discourage vermin and scavenging, as well as to limit odors and stop trash from blowing around and prevent possible disease from spreading.

About 600 square feet need to be covered daily.

Richardson wanted to find a better way to meet the requirement, and a company called LSC Environmental Products gave her the idea. It suggested mixing the paint with a slurry to make the cover more durable and have better coverage.

After a 90-day demonstration and reporting results to state officials, the landfill received approval for using paint as landfill cover.

"The paint gives it kind of a leather-like quality; it's more durable in adverse weather," she said. "I really can't say enough about it."

In 2015, the first full year the landfill implemented the paint strategy, the facility was able to use 3,800 gallons of latex paint in the slurry to cover the trash.

Using that paint saved the facility $11,300 in disposal fees. Richardson said they're on track to double that savings this year.

Repurposing the paint saves money in three ways — first, the county was spending money to ship the paint for disposal. Secondly, the space in the landfill previously used up by dirt required for the daily covering of the trash is now available for more trash.

"The air space that we saved last year by using the slurry instead is about $1.4 million dollars," Richardson said.

Savings have also been realized through labor costs, as it used to require a heavy-equipment operator roughly half a day to scrape, haul and spread soil out as daily cover.

Now, it takes roughly 15 minutes to make the slurry with the paint and 15 more minutes to apply it with a hydroseeder.

Since the landfill received the award, interest has been coming out of the woodwork from other solid-waste managers.

"My phone has just been blowing up," Richardson said, noting that she has had inquiries from as far away as New Zealand.

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