Boise’s Public Works leaders think a city-wide composting program would drastically reduce the amount of waste its residents contribute to the Ada County Landfill.
Victor Dougherty and other faithful composters think it’s just one more way the government wants to penalize them for other people’s refusal to be as responsible as he is.
Dougherty said Monday he’s been composting yard debris and food waste at his South Hilton Street home since he moved in almost 40 years ago. He periodically turns the materials in a fenced-in pen in his backyard, making sure they decompose correctly. The final product is a brown, earthy powder that he spreads on his flowers and yard to help them grow.
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Those results are the exact reason some city leaders are so excited about starting a composting program. Dougherty’s composting reduces the amount of stuff he throws in the garbage. He said he fills his garbage cart about once a month, if that.
If Boise’s composting program becomes a reality, Dougherty will have to pay the same fee increase — expected to be $3.40 per month — that everyone else does. The city points out that, in order to put a real dent in the amount of waste residents throw away and the methane emissions that rotting garbage produces, the program needs to be large-scale. The way to make sure a lot of people participate is to charge them, whether they compost or not, just like the recycling program.
Once again in life, all of us people who are doing the right thing are going to get punished. I’m sick of it.
Victor Dougherty, longtime composter
The way Dougherty sees it, though, he’s already subsidizing people who throw away more stuff than he does.
“I’m tired of being the responsible person who gets extra bills whether I need them or not,” Dougherty said. “ I’m not looking forward to paying for a bin that I’m not even going to use.”
The city of Eugene, Ore., started a curbside composting program with local businesses and organizations about four years ago, said Deveron Musgrave, waste prevention and green building program coordinator for Eugene. The city plans to launch a pilot program for residences this fall.
About 200 businesses and organizations, including groceries, restaurants and large apartment complexes, are participating in the voluntary composting program.
“The thought with approaching from the business side first was fewer customers that you have to do education and outreach to,” Musgrave said. “Half of food waste is generated by businesses. When you look at efforts to do education and outreach, you’re talking to 200 businesses instead of 50,000 people. It just made sense.”
45.79 percentThe amount of trash from Boise’s single-family homes that is organic, mostly compostable material.
Since the program began, an estimated 8,000 tons of food waste has been kept out of the landfill. Participants compost “anything that was alive,” including meat and dairy.
Here are some more details on Boise’s composting proposal:
How would it work?
Some 73,000 95-gallon carts would be distributed to homes across the city. Residents would dump organic materials, such as food scraps and grass clippings. Republic Services, which collects garbage and recyclable materials, would collect the organic materials every week and take them to Boise’s Twenty-Mile South Farm, where composting would occur.
How much would it cost?
Customers who have only one cart each for garbage, recycling and composting would pay an additional $3.40 per month. That would bring the total bill for all three services to $17.77 and would cover Republic’s costs, minus money the city recovers through paying less to dump garbage at the Ada County Landfill and selling composted material.
When do rates go up?
If the City Council signs off, the composting rate increase would go into effect Oct. 1.
When does the service start?
The idea is to start collecting organics for composting next spring.
Do I have to participate?
Customers could opt out of receiving the composting bin, but that wouldn’t make sense. The city would charge them about $5 more per month. The city explains it this way: The base cost for garbage, recycling and compost collection would be $27.77 per month. But it would rebate $5 for participating in the composting program, as well as the recycling program, bringing the final bill to $17.77.
Could I buy compost directly from the city?
That’s the idea right now. In fact, city spokesman Mike Journee said the city expects to offer compost for free. There’s no decision on how much each person could take or what other limits might be in place. Also unclear is where Boise would offer the compost.
Can you dump meat, dairy products, etc., in the composting bin?
Maybe. Idaho Department of Environmental Quality policy prohibits composting operations from processing meat or animal fats. But the city hopes to convince the agency to change its policy. No dog, cat or other poop would be allowed.
How effective are other cities’ composting programs?
Some 90 cities across the country were composting by 2012, according to a story that year by Governing magazine. Portland started collecting food scraps in addition to yard debris in 2011. Since then, the amount of garbage people throw away has fallen by about one-third. San Francisco, which had the first major composting program, hopes to produce zero waste by 2020.
City Council considers composting
The Boise City Council will hear the Public Works Department’s composting proposal Tuesday. The meeting begins at noon on the third floor of City Hall, 150 N. Capitol Blvd.