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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Green waste pilot program sees higher utilization

DURHAM – In an effort to help prevent wildfires, Butte County launched a program in June 2021 that offered free disposal of green waste for those living in the wildland urban interface.

Butte County Public Works Director Joshua Pack returned to the board of supervisors Tuesday to provide an update on the program as well as present the results. The program officially ended on November 11, 2021.

In his brief presentation to the board, Pack said 672 Butte County vehicles dropped material during the event and 331.2 tons of green waste was seen at the Neal Road Recycling and Waste Facility. The cost of the program was $41,906.

The cost for the county included $64 per vehicle that disposed of green waste. Broken down, that is $21 per vehicle in landfill fee waivers and $43 per vehicle in program operation and disposal costs.

A large part of the increase in green waste came at the end of the pilot program’s lifespan when Old Durham Wood announced that it would no longer collect green waste from residents, with the exception of removing orchards.

During the program, the county held 11 events from June 30 to November 7.

Specially permitted events for those living within the Wildland Urban Interface, meaning particular parts of the county that are prone to wildfires as determined by Butte County employees. Because of this, employees as well as project participants had to check addresses to make sure the garbage was coming from people living in those areas, Pack said.

“It was a challenge,” Pack said. “So we used common sense there. We asked our residents to look at the load and look at the addresses and make decisions in real time. We really saw no abuse of that. I think this is one of them.” Don’t let the good become the enemy of the good. So it worked well for us.”

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There was a three-ton limit for those disposing of their green waste at landfills. Pack said some people brought their garbage in large trailers but were accepted nonetheless.

“We believe that if this becomes a more permanent program, we want to keep an eye on it,” Pack said. “I don’t recommend any action on that at this point.”

One concern brought up by PACK during the presentation was the program and the potentially rising cost of operating the landfill. It is possible that the cost per vehicle can go up to $100. Despite this, Pack said the pilot program was successful.

“Overall, we are really pleased with the program,” Pack said. “It worked out quite well. I think it worked well for residents. It removes a barrier we’ve heard from the public about cost at landfills which is a barrier.”

Pack recommended that the county continue the program into 2022, with a master plan for a longer-term program coming in February.

The board unanimously approved the program for one more year.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors usually meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 9 a.m. in their chambers located at 25 County Center Drive, Suite 205 in Oroville. The meetings are free and open to the public. Those who have not been fully vaccinated, it is mandatory for them to wear a mask while in the building.

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