New landfill contract means multiple benefits

Across the state and throughout Napa County, communities are working to keep waste out of landfills, yet we still generate almost five pounds of trash per person per day. Whatever cannot be recycled or composted is typically put into a landfill. That “garbage” gets loaded into trucks and taken away. But where does it go? And why should we care? It might be hard to imagine how managing our trash in new ways can help improve our lives—but it does.

Currently, the garbage in Napa County, the City of Napa, American Canyon and Vallejo is taken from the Devlin Road transfer station by trucks—lots of trucks—to a landfill in Contra Costa County. However, starting in January 2014, the Napa-Vallejo Waste Management Authority, which owns the transfer station, will be working with Potrero Hills Landfill to manage residual waste disposal (that’s a fancy way of saying “garbage”) and our trash will be heading to Solano County instead. The change is significant.

By moving our garbage from the landfill in Pittsburg to the one near Suisun City, the Waste Management Authority will save about $850,000 in yearly fees, reduce the annual number of truck trips by about 1,000 (a reduction of at least three trips per day), and significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 400 tons per year, helping us reach local climate action goals.

Access to Potrero Hills Landfill is via Highway 12, which connects Napa to Solano County. The landfill is just 19 miles from the transfer station in American Canyon, whereas the current disposal facility in Pittsburg is almost 30 miles away. The shorter distance will dramatically reduce the amount of fuel needed to transport waste, and the new route also eliminates the need to pay bridge tolls—which can add up.

Potrero Hills Landfill utilizes specialized equipment that will allow the Waste Management Authority to change to larger payload (or capacity) trucks and use fewer vehicles to transport the waste each day. These larger “possum belly” trucks dramatically lower the number of truck trips needed. Of the estimated savings per year, about half is reduced operating costs, including reduced fuel consumption and lower per-mile maintenance costs. The combination of reduced mileage and reduced trips equates to removing approximately 1 million vehicle roadway miles each year.

Once the roadway improvements on Highway 12 are completed, the benefits will include better air quality (through reduced vehicle idling, fewer truck trips and decreased miles driven), reduced congestion (by avoiding the use of Highway 29 and roadways through American Canyon), and reduced litter in high visibility areas like south Napa and American Canyon.

“The Napa-Vallejo Waste Authority made a ‘win-win-win’ decision when it voted to accept an agreement with us,” said Jim Dunbar, district general manager for Potrero Hills Landfill. “The Authority will win by realizing reduced transportation and disposal costs. The residents will win by having less truck traffic and congestion on popular roadways in Napa County. And the environment will win by improved air quality and less litter along scenic routes in the area. 

“We believe that this new 10-year agreement will save millions of dollars that can be better spent on facility improvements and increased recycling services to customers in the area,” Dunbar added.

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