Study: Co-collection of yard waste is cheaper, greener in Omaha, NE

Dive Brief:

  • A $160,000 study commissioned by officials in Omaha, NE found that it would be less expensive and more sustainable to co-collect the city's yard waste with refuse, as reported by the Omaha World-Herald.
  • The study considered five scenarios though mainly analyzed two. Co-collecting the waste was found to be $8 million less expensive than separate collection because fewer trucks would be involved. Co-collection was also found to be better in terms of greenhouse gas emissions because of the reduced vehicle miles traveled and potential to capture methane for electricity generation at the landfill. 
  • No decision on the collection method has been made yet and the current contract with Waste Management runs through 2020.

Dive Insight:

The city's current contract requires separate collection, but that hasn't been happening since 2015. With support from the mayor, the switch was made to co-collection to alleviate pick-up delays, yet some residents weren't happy with the decision so the city decided to fund this study last year.

Based on a survey included in the study, many residents still support separate collection of yard waste for composting. This would align with the approach of states such as Vermont, which has banned yard waste from landfills, and a number of other cities with organics collection programs. Though like Omaha, others have struggled with the decision and odor issues have been a factor elsewhere.

According to the standard waste hierarchy, composting this material clearly ranks above sending it to the landfill, even if energy is being captured, though this study also shows that a separate case can be made from a more holistic viewpoint. Whatever Omaha chooses to do may have an effect on the region but similar decisions in other cities will likely still be made on a case-by-case basis.

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Filed Under: Collections & Transfer Recycling Waste Diversion