A few Boise City Council members said Tuesday that they’d like a proposed citywide composting program better if it weren’t one-size-fits-all.
A waiver for people who already compost their yard debris and food scraps is one possible change. The city’s Public Works Department hasn’t worked out the details, solid waste programs manager Catherine Chertudi said, but it could be applied on a case-by-case basis to people whose composting activities meet standards.
The waiver would exempt eligible composters from the citywide program’s $3.40 monthly fee. That would relieve some angst for Boiseans who wouldn’t benefit much — if at all — from the program. Councilman TJ Thomson said he’d like to see something like that.
Another possibility is a system of charging customers based on the amount of trash they throw away, instead of a flat fee for everyone, regardless of use. Chertudi said Seattle operates this kind of system.
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Councilwoman Lauren McLean asked whether Boise could phase in such a system in the form of a rebate. Steve Burgos, Boise’s environmental manager, said that’s possible, though he’d like to get the composting program up-and-running first.
The city’s goal, if it puts the program in place, is to reduce the No. 1 source of garbage that single-family homes contribute to the Ada County Landfill. Rotting garbage emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that smells bad. Composting, on the other hand, releases carbon-dioxide, also a greenhouse gas though not as aggressive or smelly as methane.
Besides environmental concerns, the city stands to save money by composting because it pays a per-cubic-yard charge to dump garbage in the landfill, Chertudi said.
Chertudi told the council and Mayor Dave Bieter on Tuesday that she wants to initiate the composting program early next year. Residents would be allowed to opt out of it, but it would cost them $5 more per month.
Councilman Scot Ludwig said he’d rather have a fully voluntary system, similar to the city’s glass-recycling program. To many people, $3.40 per month doesn’t seem like much money, but some worry the charge would make life even more difficult for low-income families and seniors who live on Social Security or small pensions.
McLean and Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan said one of the most common requests they receive from constituents is for a municipal composting program. If the program becomes a reality, Chertudi said, the Public Works Department anticipates calls from neighboring cities that want to piggyback on Boise’s initiative.