Republic Services, which collects garbage and recyclables in the three cities, is hoping for 5,000 to 8,000 participants, business development manager Rachele Klein said.
The company has a list of about 200 people who've already said they want service when it's available, Klein said.
Starting in July, participants will pay about $8 a month for a 95-gallon cart in which they can dump clippings after mowing their lawns. Each additional cart will cost about $5.
Republic will pick up the clippings once a week, hopefully a day or two after mowing. The company will put the clippings in a pit, pack them and cover them with tarps to induce a fermentation process that's similar to pickling, Klein said.
When they're ready, the pickled clippings will be added to a mixture of hay, corn and other ingredients and fed to cows.
The pickling process is a good way to store the clippings, Klein said, and Republic expects it will make fertilizers and pet waste inert.
Farmers and ranchers have used grass clippings as a supplement for livestock feed for years, but Klein said she has never heard of a widespread program like the one Republic is starting.
"Certainly, if you find anything, we'd love to hear about it," she said.
Klein said Republic fields lots of requests from customers who want to do something with their clippings besides throw them in the trash.
Bill McMahon of Eagle said his reasons for participating in the program are as practical as they are high-minded. Enough additional trash carts to hold all of his clippings would cost him as much as the pilot program, he said.
"We lived the last 25 years in California, and I was amazed that you put your grass clippings in with your garbage (here)," he said. In California "they have the regular recycling, and they have the garbage and then the green recycling. All three carts. They've had them for years and years."
The program's costs to Republic include additional trucks, drivers and fuel, as well as money the company is paying to develop the area where the clippings are processed, Klein said.
In addition to collecting payments from program participants, Republic will save money in landfill fees. It probably won't be enough to break even this year, Klein said, but the company is hoping to do so next year.
"I wouldn't say we're looking at this as a moneymaker," Klein said. "We're looking at this as an opportunity to divert more green waste from the waste stream."
Sven Berg: 377-6275