As trash piles up, where will it go?

ERIE, Colo. - As residents from thousands of homes scrape carpet, drywall and belongings from their mud-soaked homes, the landfills are ready.

It is a process filled with hard labor.  Troy Schmid and Paula Gibson spent Friday driving to piles of trash in the Champion Greens neighborhood of Erie, scraping up loads of trash in their arms or shoveling it up to toss into a large truck.  Pulling up at a pile of children's toys, books and hand-jarred fruits, they met Sam Rehnke.  She grabbed Schmid and gave him a hug.  The sanitation workers have been shown more appreciation this week.

"Not too many hugs, but a lot of drinks and food, so that helps," laughed Schmid.

Rehnke said she ran a daycare out of her home for 20 years.  The children's books had swelled inside shelves so hard that they were difficult to remove.  The sight of the truck was a relief. 

Gesturing to Schmid and Gibson, Rehnke smiled, "I love my guys, they're not even my guys, but I love them."

As Schmid and Gibson have scooped up photos and yearbooks from the curbsides, they've made many trips.  The truck holds 10-15 tons per trip, and they made three trips in one day earlier this week, Schmid explains.

Dan Gudgel, the Division of Landfill Manager of Colorado, says there is plenty of space at landfills in Erie and on Tower Road in Denver.  Erie's landfill is expanding in the next few weeks.  The seven acres will have nearly two million cubic yards of new air space in the next two or three weeks. 

Earlier in the week, Gudgel said, about 5,000 tons of trash was picked up in one day.  At that rate, he says, it would take one-and-a-half to two years to fill up an area that large.  Additional space will be opening in the next few days across from the Front Range Landfill.

In the City of Longmont, mounds of discarded items are being piled in a lot on Martin Road temporarily before it all goes to the landfill.  According to Gordon Mock, the Solid Waste Supervisor for the City of Longmont, the workers have been picking up in one day what they would normally pick up in one to one-and-a-half weeks.

Gibson said, "Feels like we don't really do a dent too much, just more and more that people keep bringing out."

Residents can drop off debris directly to landfills which have a transfer station on the property.  While a pickup truck of trash costs $57 to drop off, some communities have made it a free service.  For example, residents of Weld can receive a voucher from the Health Department to drop off trash free of charge.

Refrigerators, freezers and electronics must be picked up separately.  Each county, city and trash service has its own plan, so check with waste officials in your neighborhood.

Rehnke says the trash pick up has been the first step to something new.

"Total fresh start, total fresh start," she said.

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