Landfill sees steep revenue drop

Revenues at Scholl Canyon Landfill have dropped nearly 50% since the recession hit — a major hit for a cash-strapped city that uses the money to help pay for public services.

The city-owned landfill generated in $8.1 million in fiscal year 2005-06 based on dumping fees for 450,000 tons of trash. Now, it’s down to about 250,000 tons, Public Works Director Steve Zurn said.

“This is the biggest reduction in tonnage that I’ve seen,” he said.

The drop in trash dumping has had a major impact on revenues. Last fiscal year, Scholl Canyon generated $5.5 million — a 47% drop since pre-recession income.

Typically the biggest revenue-generators for landfills, the amount of waste generated by building and demolition and manufacturing industries has fallen precipitously — a byproduct of the recession — heavily eroding the bottom lines of some landfills.

Industry garbage makes up about two-thirds of Scholl Canyon Landfill, while the rest is mostly household trash, which has held relatively steady despite the recession, Zurn said.

The same trend has impacted landfills operated by the Los Angeles Sanitation District that take in large amounts of building and manufacturing trash.

“You can just about track recessions and trash,” said Don Avila, spokesman for the district, which operates landfills in Calabasas and the City of Industry.

Before the recession, haulers dumped 13,200 tons of trash a day at the Puente Hills Landfill in the City of Industry. Now it’s running at about 5,000 tons a day, Avila said.

The drop has forced the sanitation district to make reductions of its own, including cutting some hourly workers, Avila said.

Glendale shares Scholl Canyon revenue with Los Angeles County and the sanitation district since they all are involved in the site in some way.

Glendale gets a 40% cut of the revenue, plus another 25% tipping fee imposed on dumpers, which include other cities and private trash haulers, Zurn said. That income helps fund public services, such as libraries and police.

Landfills that are primarily used for household waste have been less affected by the affects of the recession. Burbank’s landfill, which is 90% household trash, has seen only a slight drop in tonnage, said John Molinar, the city’s assistant public works director.

But Burbank also doesn’t make as much revenue off its landfill as Glendale since it’s not open to outside haulers.

Once the construction and manufacturing sectors bounce back from the economic doldrums, trash rates should spike again, Avila said, although “it will lag until that takes place.”

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