2 Midwestern cities advance composting programs
- Iowa City, Iowa is now offering residents curbside carts for organic waste collection, rather than residents having to supply their own containers.
- The cost of the carts is included in every household's monthly utility bills, but residents still can use their own organics bins if they so choose.
- A push for composting is also taking place in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where volunteers have launched the "More Composting, More Carts!" initiative to boost participation in the city's food composting program and divert more food waste from landfills, according to MLive. During the $9,000 grant-funded pilot program volunteers place stickers on compost bins, recycling bins and trash cans to explain what items should go inside each, plus some residents can get a discounted compost bin with free delivery.
Iowa City began collecting compost curbside in March 2017 in an attempt to divert some of its 18,000 pounds of food waste sent to the Iowa City Landfill each year. It had participated in an EPA-sponsored food waste collection pilot in 2014 and set new waste minimization standards in 2016 as part of its STAR Communities sustainability ratings goal.
Changes went into effect at the beginning of this year, including charging all residents $2 per month on their utility bills to cover the compost service. The service charge is in addition to the monthly waste and recycling charge. Organics are transported to the Iowa City Landfill commercial compost facility where they are processed into community compost.
In Ann Arbor, incurring composting costs is optional, with carts costing residents $25 for the first and $50 for each additional container. The volunteer group notes that about 20% of the city's waste sent to the landfill is food, and the city has been trying to divert more of that for years with attempts to boost its organics program. But program participation isn't at the level the city or volunteers would like; the city released survey results last year showing that about one-third of residents aren't even aware of the basics of how the curbside organics program works. So volunteers launched the educational pilot and at the end of the program will assess whether the effort has diverted more food waste from landfill.
Last fall, a controversy erupted when Cocoa Corp., a Michigan composting business that wanted to win the city's five-year composting contract, claimed that WeCare Organics, the out-of-state operator that re-won the contract after having it for seven years, had mismanaged the operations and turned the compost site into a "quasi landfill." The city responded by dismissing Cocoa's claims as false and equating the complaint to a case of sour grapes over losing the contract. The city noted that Cocoa has limited compost management experience and the company didn't satisfactorily address compost or food waste management in its proposal.
There's been a lot of talk about Ann Arbor's waste and compost programs in the past several months, from privatization — which the city council shot down — to addressing complaints about overflowing dumpsters in alleys. The city council recently approved hiring a consultant for $200,000 to develop a new solid waste master plan to examine how Ann Arbor handles waste, recycling and organics. Some city council members want less of a focus on addressing solid waste management, which they consider adequate, and more attention paid to reducing landfilled materials in the first place by beefing up the compost program. The master plan is expected to take about a year to complete.
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