Summit County is staggering under the weight of its garbage.
Area landfills are likely to fill up within the next seven years, and the burial of toxic waste is threatening groundwater supplies, said Kevin Callahan, county public works director. A 40- to-50-year plan is being developed to improve solid-waste management.
One of the first steps is the elimination of the county's free spring-cleaning program, according to a notice posted on the county Web site.
The County Council cut the free dumping after public works officials complained about "significant abuse" of the program. Staffers were being inundated by the type and amount of trash, Callahan said.
Contractors and construction firms were illegally using the trash bins for construction waste. Also, many private citizens put hazardous materials such as paint and batteries in the large bins.
"This is a case where we've probably provided too much convenience to people, and they've abused it," Callahan said. "People have to take some responsibility themselves for the disposal of these materials."
The charge for dumping this year will be $23 per ton. Communities that insist on having Dumpsters will also have to rent them from private companies, Callahan said. County officials hope neighborhood trash bins will soon be eliminated altogether.
Stopping the program will reduce convenience, and may cause some to forgo spring-cleaning, Callahan said. To mitigate the problem, the county is working with the nonprofit group Recycle Utah to provide more sustainable waste-disposal options.
Next week, a free drop-off site for hazardous materials will be available at the Three Mile Canyon landfill, located on state Route 32 near Rockport Reservoir. Individuals will also be allowed to dump other waste there, but will be required to sort their trash themselves and will be charged a fee.
"Most of the material brought in by self-haulers will then be recycled or disposed of without burial in the landfill," according to the Web posting. "This facility will help us save precious space in our landfill."
Hazardous materials, such as electronics, neon lights and mercury thermometers, can also be taken to Recycle Utah at 1951 Woodline Way in Park City. Soon, city offices and fire stations may also accept similar materials, Callahan said.
The improved waste-management program includes an education component. Recycle Utah is helping with radio and television ads and does work in schools and local libraries.For more information, visit recycleutah.org.