DALLAS — One million tons of trash sounds like a lot (and probably smells like even more).
But a new idea in Dallas would nearly double that total, putting 1.9 million tons of trash into one place every year.
The proposal would dump it all at the city's McCommas Bluff landfill, but not everyone thinks it's a good idea to send everyone's waste to the south side.
City Manager Mary Suhm believes the time has come to turn more trash into cash at the landfill in southern Dallas. The staff wants the City Council to require that the McCommas facility accept not just trash from single family homes, but refuse from all businesses and apartments.
"That waste is a resource; it's ours. And we have the opportunity to claim it and bring it to our storage facilities," said Dallas Director of Sanitation Mary Nix.
Nix explained in a briefing to the City Council Wednesday that her department already recycles old pavement, brush and scrap tires collected at the landfill.
The city also generates "green energy" from natural gas given off by the deteriorating garbage. Last year, the city recaptured enough landfill gas to heat 25,000 homes annually for a royalty of $1.6 million.
After start-up and annual costs, the city estimates the landfill would bring in $13 million to $15 million more each year — quite an enticement with tight budget years ahead.
The city's authority to force all trash in Dallas to be sent to the McCommas landfill was reinforced by a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
But some 190 haulers that take commercial trash to private landfills outside the city oppose the idea.
"The harm is immediate in higher costs, more traffic and more pollution," said Tom Brown, Texas president of the National Solid Waste Management Association.
Although the city says a drop-off station in the northern half of Dallas near Bachman Lake would shorten trips, the private haulers claim the proposal would lead to more trucks on Interstates 45 and 20.
Some southern sector Council members, like Carolyn Davis, worry how the increase in garbage would affect economic and neighborhood growth.
"I think you know we have to be extremely careful because it is going to be noise and traffic, because you are talking more trucks," she said.
Others agree the city must be sensitive, but like Council member Ann Margolin, they believe the idea makes sense environmentally and financially.
"I think this is significant enough that we have to take it seriously and look at finding a way that we might be able to move ahead with it," Margolin said.
A Council vote could come later this year.