When Evan Tyrrell stepped into the position of district manager of the Solid Waste Special Service District #1 (SWSSD) on Jan. 28, the district was in flux.
Community conversations and public meetings about the district often centered on the challenges of a backlog of materials, personnel shortages and changes in the international recycling markets. The former district manager, Deb Barton, stepped down in October of 2018.
“Changes allow a team to pull together or fall apart,” SWSSD Administrative Assistant Annette Myers said. “We chose to pull together and are fortunate to have on board Evan Tyrrell, our new district manager, whose vision will help to stream-line operations.”
Myers, who has been with the district for about two years, also facilitates human resources within the district and served as the interim manager in the months between Barton’s departure and Tyrrell’s hiring.
Tyrrell’s professional background includes graduate degrees in environmental science and public affairs. He said his alma mater, Indiana University, was one of first schools to merge environmental science and public affairs.
He said he has worked for two solid waste management districts in Indiana that operate in counties with larger populations, and he became familiar with programs and services in recycling, waste management and resource conservation.
Tyrrell said he has also worked in environmental consulting, remediation, hazardous waste and special waste (which includes contaminated soils). He was a volunteer member for a citizens’ advisory committee for New Mexico’s Long Term Impact Review Team working on the Gold King Mine waste-water spill in relation to the San Juan and Animas watersheds.
Tyrrell will oversee the operations for the SWSSD’s two landfills. The Klondike Landfill is located north of Moab and the Moab Landfill is located at 1282 Sand Flats Rd., which accepts only certain types of waste, such as construction and yard materials. The district also runs the Community Recycling Center, 1000 Sand Flats Rd., that offers source-separated recycling for residents in Moab, Grand County, northern San Juan County and the surrounding areas who bring recyclables to the center and sort it into the appropriate bins.
Tyrrell said that many of the commodities the recycling center did not accept for a time are now being accepted again. He said this includes mixed paper and newspaper, and he said the center also accepts #1 and #2 plastics, but cannot accept #3-7 plastics or plastic clamshell containers.
Even with the reduction in types of recyclables, Tyrrell said the recycling center shipped off 1,600 tons of materials for recycling last year.
When Tyrrell became district manager, the private company Monument Waste had just contracted with the City of Moab to bring single-stream recycling to the area. In the single-stream model, all recyclables are placed into one container instead of being separated by the depositor, and are collected in a similar manner to curbside trash service.
“A lot of people get us confused with Monument Waste,” Tyrrell said. “Monument Waste is our primary customer at Klondike.”
In addition to single-stream recycling services, Monument Waste hauls municipal solid waste, including residential waste and wastewater treatment plant waste.
Tyrrell said he doesn’t see Monument Waste as a competitor, but a partner in waste management.
“We would like to collaborate with Monument Waste to make sure waste diversion (from landfills) is maximized,” he said.
He said it is important to maintain source-separated recycling as a public service, and said Monument Waste and the SWSSD need to collaborate with city and county governments to increase waste diversion and make both operations successful in the long term.
Tyrrell believes it is both important and feasible to make the recycling center financially solvent.
“It’s hard to make money in recycling, but we should be able to break even,” he said.
Diverting waste from landfills is not only important for environmental reasons, but has a financial incentive as well.
Tyrrell recounted a recent panel discussion held by the League of Women Voters in Grand County. Panelist Kate Bailey from Eco-Cycle Solutions stressed that the landfills are huge assets for the community.
“Extending the life of the landfill … is an over-arching interest for the community as a whole,” Tyrrell said.
The Moab Landfill is estimated to have about a decade left at present usage rates. Tyrrell said he is considering disallowing cardboard from entering the Moab Landfill to extend the landfill’s long term operations. Cardboard is accepted at the recycling center.
The SWSSD has also been operating a compost project and mulching.
Tyrrell said the district is currently evaluating the quality of the mulch, and said mulch could be available for the public in the future.
He said the SWSSD, along with multiple stakeholders, including Grand County, the City of Moab, the health department and Utah State University, will need to reassess the compost operation and decide which direction to take.
Diverting organic waste into mulching and composting could potentially keep a substantial amount of material from entering the landfills.
Tyrrell said education and outreach is going to be key, especially with the tourist population in Moab. And, he said, recycling needs to be convenient, with clearly marked bins for trash and recyclables located next to each other.
He said he’d also like to see expanded electronic waste collection services and partnerships with nonprofits in town to divert usable material, such as construction items, for reuse. In addition, there are plans for a website revamp and an expanded social media presence.
“There’s a lot of cool things we see happening over time,” Tyrrell said, adding that existing operations need to be assessed and optimized first.
“But in general, we’ve already made a lot of improvements,” he said. “The recycling center is in great condition. We’re planning to retain that, and also make continuous improvements, and make this a cool, fun place for people to come.”
Tyrrell had words of praise for the SWSSD staff, including Myers, operator Brandon Bertwell, facilities supervisor Chris Scovill, mechanic Darryll Smallcanyon and recently hired Kalene Bradley, who greets users of the recycling center and answers questions.
“We have a very dedicated, hardworking staff,” Tyrrell said. “My goal is to retain the existing staff and provide them with professional development and training opportunities.”
The director of local nonprofit Moab Solutions, Sara Melnicoff, has been closely involved with the SWSSD and has been vocal in her support of the recycling center. In an interview with the Moab Sun News, Melnicoff voiced her approval of the SWSSD’s current operations and what she sees as a bright future.
“I am absolutely thrilled about all the staff that’s there now, and how beautiful things look, all the potential and all the potential being realized,” Melnicoff said. “It seems like a win-win there right now.”
Editor’s note: This article was updated to reflect Chris Scovill is the facilities supervisor. We previously said Brandon Bertwell was the facilities supervisor. He is an operator.