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Why doesn't the City have a compost program for green waste?
Many residents have expressed dismay at the closure of the green waste facility in north Spanish Fork on November 1, 2015. At that time South Utah Valley Solid Waste District (SUVSWD) discontinued their compost program because it was not economically viable. The costs to produce compost far exceeded the market value of the compost, and even though compost was being sold at a loss, demand was relatively low and compost was piling up all over the state.
Many residents enjoyed having a free place to dump their tree branches, weeds, autumn leaves, and grass clippings. Through the voucher program residents are given 3 free vouchers to take their green waste to the transfer station each year.
Some feel it is important to keep yard waste out of the landfill at all costs and believe the compost program should have continued despite losing money, because doing what's right for the environment should be a higher priority than fiscal responsibility.
Municipal composting isn't as green as you think:
- Raw yard waste must first be hauled to a collection site in vehicles using fossil fuels and causing emissions.
- This waste which mostly consists of wood then must be shredded to make it ready for composting. This necessitates significant taxpayer funded labor and fuel costs. The large equipment used to grind this green waste emits emissions and uses fossil fuels.
- Grass must be separated, loaded and hauled to the landfill because the Composting Program could not use it. See our grass-cycling (mulching) website for a better option.
- Shredded material is loaded into semi-truck trailers and hauled 20 plus miles to a composting yard located far enough from the city to protect residents from the odors. This uses more fuel and causes more emissions.
- The composting process requires many months of frequent turning by big machinery.
- Finished compost is loaded into semi-truck trailers and hauled to local green waste/compost facility to be sold.
- At the local compost facility, compost is loaded onto resident vehicles or into dump trucks for delivery.
- With this system the economic cost to produce compost is $80-100/yard. Compost market value at $20/yard results in a $60-80/yard DEFICIT for the county waste district.
- The Composting Program was losing $800,000 per year and the SUVSWD was on a trajectory to insolvency.
- The Composting Program was bad for the economy (wasting taxpayer funds) and bad for the environment.
- Ending the Composting Program does deprive residents of a free place to dump their yard waste. But continuing the compost program would have required massive hikes in garbage can rates or taxes. City leaders and the SUVSWD determined that keeping rates and taxes at a minimum was more important than providing a freebie.
Facts about municipal composting:
- Grass clippings could not actually be used in the municipal composting program because they clogged the shredding equipment. They had to be separated from other compostable materials and hauled to the landfill.
- Large scale composting of mostly carbonaceous materials (wood) with frequent turning releases large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
- Composting wood products yields a low-quality compost; it will not provide the nutrients a vegetable garden needs, and may amplify imbalances in the soil mineral profile.
- There have been several public disputes and lawsuits in Utah related to municipal composting operations over the odor that it emits.
- Green waste at the landfill actually produces methane gas which can then be harvested and used to run electric generators. Plans are in place to start just such a program at our landfill.
Composting at home is the answer:
- No expensive equipment, public labor costs, or fuel emissions.
- Reduces or eliminates green waste in black garbage cans, which reduces odors and saves money on extra cans (up to $132/year/can).
- In a 6x8 foot area of the yard, a typical urban household can compost their garden waste, weeds, leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen food waste.
- When done properly, small scale composting does not produce odors or large amounts of CO2 emissions.
- Finished compost can be used to mulch, or worked into the soil to enrich flowerbeds and vegetable gardens.
- Plants growing in compost-enriched soil are more resistant to insect and disease.