Talkin' trash: Lautenbach's ‘San Juan Island Initiative’ | Guest Column

Troy Lautenbach - Journal photo/Kathryn Sherman
Troy Lautenbach
— image credit: Journal photo/Kathryn Sherman

By Troy Lautenbach/Special to the Journal

With enthusiasm and high hopes, my brother Torrey and I, and our entire Lautenbach Industries team, greet San Juan islanders as we assume responsibility for operating and improving the San Juan Island solid waste transfer station.

The operating agreement with San Juan County has been signed, we take the keys to the site on Sutton Road on June 1 and we’ll be open for business at 10 a.m., June 6.

For now, we will continue the present 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. operating hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As we bring the facility up to environmental standards and build a new tipping floor, we’ll make changes to reduce customer waiting times, make the facilities more user-friendly and attract larger-volume contractor and manufacturer accounts to the station. More changes will be made over the coming months.

Most fees will not change: mixed solid waste will stay at $294 per ton, co-mingled recycling will stay at $142 per ton or $3 per can, regular appliances will stay at $22 per items ($56 for refrigerated appliances), and oil will continue to be free, at least for now.

The only increase: the current $12 minimum fee will be raised to $16.72 plus tax. This modest increase will reduce traffic to the site, shortening wait times entering and leaving the site. We’ll continue helping customers who may have difficulty with heavy loads.

We will offer our demolition and construction recycling services county-wide, and take an active role to invigorate recycling, re-use and zero-waste goals in the whole county.

With completion of the tipping floor, our contract to take the Town of Friday Harbor’s garbage service waste will commence. The increased cash flow will enable us to offer additional services, possibly including collecting and transporting landscaping and agricultural plant material to the mainland for mulching and returning to the islands.

Both the public and local government look to us for more hours and services, and we intend to deliver – mindful of competitive and regulatory restraints and the demands of efficient and economically sustainable operations.

The past decade was unfortunately marked by proposals for solid waste handling and disposal that have not worked, by purchases of property and plans for improvements that came to nothing.

We’ve been in the business of waste handling, transport and disposal for almost 25 years. Our success in a highly competitive business is, we think, evidence of hard work and innovative thinking. We’ve learned from our mistakes and our successes – and, most importantly, we have listened to our customers. And we will continue to listen.

Two years ago we saw an opportunity to extend our reach by operating a full-scale transfer and collection station for recycling and garbage. We decided to compete to win that opportunity.

We also learned from and respected the commitment and innovation that Lopez and Orcas islanders exhibited in planning and putting together their own proposals to operate local solid waste transfer facilities. We pledge to work with Lopezians and Orcasites to help them achieve their recycling, reuse and zero-waste goals.

We put together a comprehensive professional plan to operate the San Juan transfer station, and the county's selection committee chose us as the outfit they wanted to negotiate with.

Our planning required out-of-the-box thinking by everyone. It took two years of rigorous three-party negotiations to reach a fair and practical result.  We are confident the solution reached by Lautenbach, the county and the town is the right solution for San Juan Island. With your help, we'll make it work.

In the coming weeks, we will engage the community in a variety of ways, including community roundtables in Friday Harbor, presentations at meetings of non-profits and business organizations, and, sometime later this summer, a “Grand Opening Party” at the Sutton Road facility.

Please join us in making the most of this great opportunity to improve our community.

— Editor's note: Troy and Torrey founded T&T Recycling, now Lautenbach Industries, in 1991. It's headquartered in Mount Vernon onear Skagit Airport. and employs 30. For more info, call 360-424-7199, or visit, www.lautenbachrecycling.com


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