Nevada: Managing Waste On The Frontier

"Nevada's landfill capacity is measured in decades, not months or years," said Dave Emme, chief of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection's (NDEP) Bureau of Waste Management.

Unique in a country where diminishing capacity is a major issue and tipping fees border outrageous, Nevada faces other challenges, including a limited budget, waste tire disposal, recycling incentives, importation and a fluctuating population.

The state of Nevada's limited solid waste budget is generated by a $1 surcharge per tire sold at retail. Approximately $1 million dollars annually, the revenue must be distributed among three solid waste management authorities: NDEP (45 percent), the Clark County Health District (30 percent) and the Washoe County Health Department (25 percent).

Tire Advisory Currently, Nevada's greatest recycling challenge is waste tire disposal. Approximately 1 million waste tires are generated in the state each year, with an estimated 83 percent being landfilled, stockpiled or illegally dumped, according to NDEP.

Unfortunately, private disposal companies don't want tires banned from the landfill and are willing to accept them. This, of course, inhibits any beneficial use of the tires since many recycling options are more costly than disposal charges.

NDEP and its Waste Tire Advisory Committee, in cooperation with private industry, local government and state and federal agencies, are trying to resolve this situation. In 1995, NDEP adopted the State Plan for Tires, which includes regulations governing tire recycling facilities and a registration requirement for tire haulers.tire recycling facilities and a registration requirement for tire haulers.

The plan also suggests that legislation be passed to levy a fee on tire disposal commensurate with the tire's "energy value" as determined by its BTU value and the current price of coal. The recycled tires are expected to be used as replacement fuel in cement kilns.

NDEP hopes that the strategies outlined in the plan will provide e-nough economic incentive to inspire greater waste tire recycling.

Waste Down South Nevada, which has a population of approximately 1.5 million, is bottom heavy, with more than 1 million citizens located in Clark County (the Las Vegas municipal statistical area). For this reason, the major portion of recyclables produced and collected are from Las Vegas, according to Suzanne Sturtevant, NDEP's recycling coordinator.

Until 2010, Silver State Disposal (SSD) has an exclusive franchise to collect curbside solid waste and recyclable material in Las Vegas. A three-bin system is provided to customers who may recycle a wide range of materials including used motor oil.

In addition to the twice-monthly recyclables collection, SSD's services include bi-weekly, unlimited solid waste pickup; four household hazardous waste events and eight transfer stations where customers can dispose of additional solid waste, batteries, paints and oil. The total monthly cost per household is $9.70.

"[Silver State Disposal has been] here since 1952," said Steve Kalish, SSD's recycling coordinator. "We've held our rates down and provided good service."

With a 45-percent participation rate, SSD processes recyclables at its 90,000-square-foot municipal recovery facility. The materials are sold in both domestic and foreign markets through the company's broker, Jefferson-Smur-fit, Alton, Ill.

Silver State disposes the remaining waste at the 2,500-acre Apex Landfill (pictured on page 96), which works in conjunction with the company's rock business. "Because of Apex's rocky terrain, we needed to develop a use for the unearthed rocks," said Kalish. As holes are dug for landfill cells, rocks are mined and used as decorations or to make sand for cover and concrete.

Rebel Recycling In 1992, Silver State and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) created a campus recycling program.

The company provides the school with recycling bins and collects the recyclables free of charge. Although the university is not paid for their recyclables, it receives student scholarships from SSD every year.

Recently, UNLV added an education office for the recycling program, funded by a $1 dollar per semester per student recycling fee. In addition, the program received a grant from NDEP for expansion.

Rebel Recycling is using the grant money to discover ways to reduce UNLV's disposal costs by locating disposal areas with large amounts of materials not being recycled, "especially cardboard which takes up a lot of space in the dumpster," said Rebel Recycling's Tara Pike.

Pike, with guidance from the College and University Recycling Council (URC), helps organize activities such as dumpster dives and weighins to boost students' recycling awareness. The URC is a National Recycling Coalition, Washington, D.C., affiliate.

Liners Need Not Apply Because Nevada is the most arid state in the nation, Subtitle D's landfill monitoring and final cover standards are not appropriate for some areas.

As a result, NDEP developed new municipal solid waste landfill regulations. After gaining approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NDEP issued its first permit to construct a landfill without a liner or a monitoring system to the City of Mesquite, 80 miles north of Las Vegas.

The Importation Question "We have neither a landfill crisis nor high tipping fees," said Emme.

To deter the importation of non-municipal solid waste, Northern Nevada's Washoe County district Health Department has implemented waste acceptance and screening standards at the 1,500-acre Lock-wood Landfill, located 10 miles east of Reno.

"Nevada does not wish to be the nation's dumping ground," Emme continued. Lockwood, owned and operated by Disposal Services of Reno, and Silver State's Apex Landfill handle nearly 90 percent of all the solid waste disposed in Nevada.

Lockwood, however, due to its accessibility to rural Californian communities in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, is the primary acceptor of imported waste.

Part of the screening standards requires out-of-state haulers to submit a detailed operations plan, including recovery processes, load checking procedures, transportation carrier, route and hazardous and special waste handling.

"Once [Washoe] approves the plan, we go to the transfer station to inspect [the hauler's] load checking operations to [determine] that what's coming to [Lockwood] is in fact municipal solid waste," said the health department's Jeanne Rucker.

Also, Washoe reserves the right to inspect the hauler's operations any time at the hauler's expense. However, given the landfill's low tipping fees, importation is not dramatically affected, according to Rucker.

Recyclables Anyone? Washoe County funds a free materials exchange database. A World Wide Web page (http://www. is used as the primary means of advertising.

The Washoe County Materials Exchange Network (WCMAX), designed by Environmental Leadership (EL) - a non-profit organization in Reno, connects businesses generating reusable materials with businesses that can use them.

The database differs from other exchanges due to its high activity level, EL claims. "When a WCMAX representative receives a call, he or she will actively market the materials until a user is found," said EL's program manager, Ben Parker. Reportedly, eight hours is the longest time a material has spent on the exchange before finding a home.

Waste Not, Want Not "At Lake Tahoe, the Incline Village General Improvement District operates the Waste Not program, which has included innovative recycling activities such as collecting and baling pine needles for the ski slopes [to prevent erosion]," said Emme.

Begun in October 1990, Incline Village's Waste Not program opened a redemption center and organized civic, church and school groups as volunteers to collect recyclables at the curb.

The local hauler, Independent Sanitation, a subsidiary of Reno's Disposal Services, provided the program with recycling containers. The following year, a mandatory curbside service law was passed.

Recyclables collected curbside include aluminum cans, glass bottles and jars, tin and steel cans, plastic bottles, newspapers and magazines. In 1991, waste oil, antifreeze, telephone books and Christmas trees were added to the list.

Currently, Incline Village's curbside customer base is 3,800 households. "Because we are a destination resort, [our population] during peak occupancy [can rise from approximately 8,000] to 16,000 people," said Waste Not's Linda Pittman.

The resulting costs for curbside service and the redemption center is between $179,000 and $185,000 annually. The cost for education, promotions and one part-time staff member equals Waste Not's entire budget ($25,000 annually). In the last five years, notably, the program has expanded its promotions budget with more than $95,000 in grants and donations.

Last fall, Independent opened an 18,000-square-foot transfer station, enhancing the redemption center's collection by accepting oil, anti-freeze, batteries and corrugated cardboard. In addition, RSW Recycling, also a subsidiary of Reno's Disposal Services, sorts recycling materials and sells them to the highest bidder.

Both have contracted not to landfill recyclables and to warehouse materials if the markets are soft and the prices drop.

"We have true community support, and that's probably why we have been a recipient of the Nevada Recycling Coalitions Community Program of the Year Award," Pittman said.

Throughout the Nevada frontier, Pittman and her colleagues will continue to face their solid waste management challenges - to manage a diverse waste stream and economize without cutting corners.

What do pork, saving money and recyclables have in common?

RC Farms Inc., Las Vegas, of course. As the state's second largest hog operation, the farm also has grown into one of the area's largest independent recycling firms.

Collected from Las Vegas resort hotels and restaurants, more than 30 tons of food waste are fed to the farm's hogs every day, according to Robert Combs, the farm's owner. Aside from food, RC Farms also collects paper, metal and cooking oils for reuse.

"We can reduce a waste generator's output by 50 percent...," Combs stated in the Las Vegas Business Press.

RC employees sift through each hotel's garbage daily, sorting food waste and other recyclables from the rest of the trash. Flatware and other hotel property is returned to the owner. The food wastes are then collected in special trucks, taken to the farm, loaded into large steam-heated vats and sterilized. Once cooled, the mixture is fed to the hogs.

The Combs operation reportedly meets all federal and state standards, and the meat is considered indistinguishable from grain-fed pork.