TUSCUMBIA — Every day, tractor-trailer trucks containing about 24 tons of waste from SCA Tissue’s paper manufacturing process pull into Colbert County Landfill and dump their loads.
By the end of the day, the landfill will accept about 626 tons of paper sludge along with an average of 140 tons of yard debris, construction and demolition material, old refrigerators and washing machines and other waste brought in from county and city residences.
The influx of so much additional waste was significantly reducing the lifespan of the landfill, until the Shoals Solid Waste Authority made a $645,000 investment.
They bought a Doppstadt DW 3060k grinder that will reduce most anything brought into the landfill into tiny pieces.
Not only does it help save space in the landfill, but the small pieces of ground-up debris mixes well with the paper sludge and helps it compact, Landfill Manager Howard Keeton said.
The sludge must be mixed with other material to pack properly.
“It will increase the life of the landfill by four to five years,” Commissioner Rex Burleson said.
Burelson serves as chairman of the Shoals Solid Waste Authority. The Colbert County Landfill opened in 1969.
The grinder sits near a huge mound of trash, but can move around with the help of a pair of tracks like those on a bulldozer.
As items come into the landfill, they’re loaded into the bed of the grinder. The trash is fed into a rotating drum with sharp metal teeth that shred the items into small pieces.
A conveyor belt carries the material out of the grinder and onto the ground where a bulldozer pushes it up onto the rising mount of trash.
Keeton said the machine can be operated remotely by the loader operator, who can also move it into another position.
“It can take about 95 percent of what is brought into the landfill,” Burleson said.
Dropping large pieces of concrete, stone or aluminium into the grinder is not advisable, Keeton said.
To put it in perspective, Keeton said six truck loads of debris could be ground up and placed into a single truck. And it can pulverize all 140 tons of trash that come into the landfill every day.
But even with the new piece of equipment, Burleson and Keeton know the landfill will have to be expanded in the future. The county has a contract to accept SCA paper sludge until 2024.
Keeton said there is another 130 acres of land adjacent to the Colbert County Landfill, 42 of which can be permitted for an inert landfill.
But it can cost as much as $200,000 to open a 6 acre cell.
“We don’t want to get into a situation where we have to go outside (the landfill) for land,” Burleson said.
The main problem with utilizing the adjacent property is that it is across a Norfolk Southern Railway line. Keeton said the county would either have to install a crossing with safety arms or add a second scale. Both could cost the solid waste authority about $100,000, Keeton said.
Keeton said the county continues to operate a recycling program that has been well received by residents, but is still not making money. The trade off, Keeton said, is that it is keeping items out of the landfill, thus extending its life.
The program now has 90 recycling containers of varying sizes that it services.