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Latest wrinkle in trash war could benefit county agency

Earth First willing to pay 'tipping fees' even though it doesn't use local landfill

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 12:01 am

The Allen County Solid Waste Management District provides recycling and other mostly free services funded in large part by a “tipping fee” imposed on waste buried in county landfills. But what would happen to those services should fees drop because an increasing amount of trash is being taken out of the county for disposal?

The growth of Earth First, a 4-year-old company that uses landfills in Kosciusko, Jay and Huntington counties, has posed that very question – one that Earth First says it is willing to answer by paying Allen County tipping fees even though it does no disposal here.

Although the amount of those fees is still being negotiated – District Director Tony Burrus said it could amount to about $1.35 per ton – Earth First President Gregg Walbridge said he is willing to support the district's programs and expects a resolution soon.

The company already has more than 300 commercial and 5,000 residential customers and recently won the municipal waste-disposal contract in New Haven, adding another 4,600 homes. Earth First is also building a $1.5 million, 8,000-square-foot transfer station on Allen Martin Drive, further expanding its capacity. But because the county's only landfill is operated by rival National Serv-All, the company uses disposal facilities in other counties, paying tipping fees there.

But that reduces revenue for the district, which in turn could impose service fees on communities that send their waste out of county and now receive those services at little or no cost. Earth First's willingness to pay local tipping fees could keep those services free, and make it more competitive when seeking additional contracts.

It didn't win the district's contract for providing recycling trailers, however. On Tuesday the board agreed to retain Serv-All for up to five more years, at a cost of about $18,500 per month.