Talking Trash About Las Vegas’ Waste Management

On average, 300 tons of garbage arrives every hour at our beloved garbage dump called Apex, just north of Las Vegas. It is said that the site can take garbage at the current rate for 250 years.

Let’s face it, that future stinks! Can you imagine upwards of a billion tons of garbage in a hole right next door to Las Vegas? Maybe we can find a better alternative.

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On average, 300 tons of garbage arrives every hour at our beloved garbage dump called Apex, just north of Las Vegas.

It’s quite simple… so simple that it’s painful to realize that practically nothing is being done about it. Clark County recycles only 17 percent of its waste. The State Legislature has set an underwhelming goal of 25 percent. That’s quite pitiful considering other places are recycling more than 80 percent and climbing.

By 2016, the City of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada will divert 90 percent of its waste from landfills. Edmonton’s efforts were recently listed as one of the 10 big ideas from mayors and urban experts at a convention in Los Angeles hosted by think tanks and the Atlantic’s City Lab.

“Edmonton’s Waste Management Centre is a 233-hectare site that encompasses the world’s largest collection of integrated state-of-the-art facilities for solid waste management. This includes the largest composting facility of its type in North America, a materials recovery facility for sorting recyclables, an integrated processing and transfer facility, a leachate treatment facility, an electronics waste recycling facility, a construction-and-demolition waste recycling facility, a landfill gas plant that generates sufficient energy to power 4,600 homes, and an advanced energy research facility. Canada’s first waste-to-biofuels facility for municipal waste also opened recently at this site.”

Turns out a lot of that waste is actually useful for industrial materials, energy, chemicals, animal feed and even fuel for your car – all things with monetary value. Turns out the places that convert all this garbage into useful commodities also create jobs and boost the economy:

 “We think 90 percent of our trash will now go to some higher purpose than being buried in the ground. We’re creating green jobs, we’re creating value and we’re helping support innovation in Alberta and in the Canadian economy.”

Yeah, but that comes at a cost to John Q. Taxpayer, doesn’t it? Turns out for the same cost, you can actually put this junk to work, and avoid a huge pile of garbage in your backyard while you’re at it!

“We’re paying about 70 dollars a ton to transport and landfill our material at an outside landfill,” said Jim Schubert, acting director of business planning and central operations with the City of Edmonton. “The cost of the biofuels facility when its fully operational will be around 75 dollars a ton. So for approximately the same cost we’re going to be turning that material into something useful.”

See, so simple a caveman could do it! If only it were purely a matter of intelligence. Smart policy, however, also has to overcome politics, lobbyists and collective indifference.