In an ideal world the city of Boise would like to do an environmentally commendable thing, and save money at the same time, by sending less solid waste to the landfill and diverting compostable material — which is about half of what we put in our barrels — to another location.
These raw materials — leaves, grass clippings, certain kitchen scraps and other organic matter — could become the ingredients for compost that those of us who have an interest might later repurpose to enrich the soils in our gardens, flower beds and yards.
It’s a nice premise that quickly got sideways with the citizenry last month when details of the one-size-fits-all method of execution became public. Every single-family home in Boise was going to be issued an additional barrel for composting and assessed a $3.40 monthly charge.
This approach upset citizens at different ends of the spectrum: The people who have been dutifully attending to their own compost bins said it felt like they were being penalized for doing the right thing; others who claim it takes them a month to fill a barrel because they never eat at home and don’t have much of a yard just asked, ah, why?
There was no option for people who already compost or for those who did not want to participate.
We don’t see any reason for the city to abandon the goal of creating a composting program. There are too many positives involved:
▪ Reducing the cost and impact of sending so much waste to the landfill.
▪ The long-term benefits of reducing certain hazards at landfills.
▪ Compost is a fantastic soil conditioner, especially here in the Treasure Valley.
▪ Composting is in line with overall community sustainability goals.
That said, we hope city officials are committed to getting more feedback from the community, and other cities, and then rethinking how the system will work. Though it is impossible to please everybody, there has to be a way to offer waivers to those already handling their own compost, and to recruit and support those who want to start. Many cities, such as Austin, Texas, offer free composting classes and rebates for composting bins.
Somewhere short of a mandate, the city can continue to experiment with incentives, such as price reductions for people who participate in the full range of the CurbIt recycling efforts.
In other Northwest cities, what people throw away is weighed as the truck picks up their barrels — a pay-as-you-toss concept. This makes citizens think about what they are putting in their trash barrels, and something like composting becomes a household money-saving habit that benefits the entire community.
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