Boise & Garden City

Composting is coming to Boise. Now what?

Dig In video series: Wake up and smell the compost

Master Composter Dave Hopkins and Master Gardener Debbie Courson Smith give a Composting 101 lesson in this week's Dig In gardening video, the fifth episode in the series.
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Master Composter Dave Hopkins and Master Gardener Debbie Courson Smith give a Composting 101 lesson in this week's Dig In gardening video, the fifth episode in the series.

After more than a year of planning and some controversy, the city of Boise’s composting program is finalized.

The City Council approved a renewed franchise agreement with Republic Services early this month. Republic is Boise’s trash, recycling and, now, composting contractor.

Starting in early June and continuing into July, Republic plans to deliver composting carts to some 70,000 homes in the city.

Simply getting all those carts to the right homes is an exercise in planning, said Catherine Chertudi, Boise’s manager of solid waste programs.

“It’s a logistics dance to make it all work well,” Chertudi said. “We’re trying to manage the workload and, as I’ve been trying to tell people, reduce the chaos. The on-the-ground chaos. Chaos causes more problems, and it also costs money. So we’re trying to kind of manage all of that in, really, as logical and thoughtful and customer-oriented way as we possibly can.”

Over the next two months, the city will include reminders in customers’ utility bills to let them know that the compost cart is on its way. The literature will include other details of the program, such as what can and can’t be composted, tips on controlling odors, and a reminder that customers can set out additional compostable materials that don’t fit in their carts.

Here are answers to some questions that have come up about the program’s rollout:

Q: How much is this going to cost?

Most households will pay an extra $3.40 per month, or $6.80 per bimonthly billing cycle, for the new service. But many different pricing levels are in play, depending on the number and sizes of trash, recycling and composting carts customers order.

See the box below for a complete list of rates.

Q: Who has to pay?

Residents of any home inside Boise city limits that now use Republic Services’ plastic carts for garbage and recycling. Mostly, that’s single-family homes, but it includes duplexes and small apartment buildings with as many as seven units.

Businesses are not part of the program for now.

Q: When do the new fees kick in?

June 1.

Q: When does composting service begin?

A week before customers’ composting carts arrive, Republic will put tags on their trash carts, reminding them that the program is about to begin. This will also give customers a chance to set out any recycling or trash carts they asked Republic to exchange or remove from their selection of carts. A schedule for cart delivery will be online soon at curbitboise.org.

Service will start at each home as soon as its cart arrives. Republic will pick up materials from the composting carts once a week on the same day as trash pickup.

Q: I missed the time period for picking which carts and sizes I want. What can I do?

If you didn’t opt out of the composting program, the city automatically enrolled you. You will receive a single composting cart the size of your trash cart. You may have to wait until the composting carts are all delivered to reduce your number of trash carts otherwise change your cart selection. For more information, contact Republic Services at (208) 345-1266.

Q: I ordered one of the indoor compost pails. How will I get it?

The pails will be delivered to the homes of the fewer than 4,000 customers who ordered them. The city and Republic are working out details.

Q: What exactly can I put in the composting cart?

Mainly, food scraps and yard debris. Here’s the full list from the city’s website: leaves and branches, grass clippings, fruits and vegetables, yard and garden cleanup, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, eggshells, pine cones and needles.

No meat or dairy. Also, no poop of any kind.

The composting carts’ lids will have images stamped on them to remind people of what’s allowed and what isn’t.

Q: What happens after I set out my composting cart?

Republic will empty the compostable materials out of the cart every week and take them to Boise’s Twenty-Mile South Farm.

At the farm, workers will place the materials in rows measuring about six feet high. A giant machine called a windrow turner will churn the rows periodically, allowing proper composting to take place. Workers will test the materials regularly to make sure the process is working, city spokesman Colin Hickman said.

Q: Can I use the compost?

Yes, if you’re a Boise resident. After about 100 days, composted materials should be mature and usable as an additive to yards and gardens. At that point, the city will package some percentage — maybe half — of the final product to sell to businesses that deal in garden and farm products.

The rest would be for city residents and use on ground owned by the city government. Boise plans to dispense the compost for free from three or four sites scattered around the city.

Q: How clean is the compost? Can I put it on my vegetable garden?

Stay tuned. The goal is to produce compost that will be clean enough to put on food gardens. But without having a finished product to test, there’s no way of knowing for sure.

If contaminants such as herbicides don’t decompose in the composting process, they could harm plants. The city plans to label its finished product with a list of suggested uses, Hickman said.

Proposed trash, recycling, composting fee schedule

Similar to its recycling program, the city of Boise proposes a $5-per-month rebate to encourage residents to participate in a new composting program. City staffers believe this will convince 80 percent of single-family households to participate.

Proposed prices for people who do and don't participate in the recycling and composting programs:

▪ Trash only (no recycling or composting rebates): $28.64

▪ Trash and recycling (no composting rebate): $23.64

▪ Trash, recycling and composting (both rebates apply): $18.64

▪ Trash, recycling and composting, with extra trash cart: $23.64

▪ Trash, recycling and composting, with extra composting cart: $19.24

▪ Trash, recycling and composting, with small (48- or 65-gallon, instead of 95-gallon) trash cart: $17.64

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