[article originally posted at: http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/2013/04/22/denver-city-council-launches-composting-program-at-city-hall-bring-us-your-refuse/94406/]
Denver City Council on Friday sent out a press release saying that composting has come to the City and County Building, meaning staffers in the building will be able to compost their food scraps and coffee filters.
Aurora and Cherry Creek school kids are introduced to the benefits of composting –something Denver’s City Council understands. The council on Friday sent out a press release announcing an effort to compost materials in city hall. The city has not expanded its residential composting program for years.
Though the announcement came that government officials and staffers will be able to compost, the city is woefully short of its goal to bring composting to the rest of the city. The city launched a pilot program in 2008, using money from a federal grant to buy carts and a truck to pick up composting.
That pilot program is still going with about 2,200 Denver households paying about $10 a month for compost pickup. The city expanded the program last year to 18 elementary schools and a few municipal buildings that now includes the City and County Building.
But there isn’t any more money available to purchase more trucks and carts. Now, only one route goes through the city picking up composting, said Charlotte Pitt, manager of Denver Recycles.
“We have been in a holding pattern with the composting program because of the budget,” Pitt said. “We would probably need an additional $400,000 to add another route. And about 10 to 15 routes would be needed for the city.”
About 70 percent of homes that are eligible for recycling pickup have subscribed to the free service — or about 116,000 homes. The city in 2010 published a solid waste master plan, calling for a 30 percent reduction of waste into the city’s landfill.
That could easily be achieved through composting, Pitt said. In Denver, organic material makes up about 58 percent of the waste sent to the city’s landfill. That is
more than 100,000 tons of material per year that is compostable.
“We see it as the key,” Pitt said. “Really, if we did nothing else, composting would be the key to getting us to that diversion rate. It is something that we continue to look at as best we can. We continue to look for grants and creative ways to grow it. I think as the budget concerns start to dissipate they will start looking at composting. But it is hard. We are a general fund agency. When you have furloughs and cuts no one can justify buying trucks and carts for composting.”
Denver City Council’s press release said the implementation of Denver’s comprehensive Master Plan for Managing Waste in the Mile High City, including a three-cart waste collection system (recycle, compost, and trash) is a top priority of the Denver City Council. During a budget retreat last week, it was listed as the sixth top priority of the council for 2014.
“This pilot program is the next step toward a Council goal established last year to set an example of waste reduction for the City. It illustrates Council’s commitment to being a leader in diverting waste from the landfill and I look forward to learning from the results of this effort,” said Council President Mary Beth Susman.
The composting program at the City & County Building includes a weekly compost collection by Denver Recycles/Solid Waste Management, a division of Denver Public Works. Denver Recycles delivers the compostable material to the A1 Organics facility for composting. A1 Organics then composts the materials and sells various grades of compost to retail and agriculture.
Denver Recycles in partnership with A1 Organics also sells discounted compost at its annual Mulch Giveaway and Compost Sale in early May.
This is a scenario I’ve seen before… a group of people that want to do something, but can’t get around the costs of it. Although I’m sure they’re already on it, my suggestion would be to put energy into educating the people on how to compost at home.
Yes, this means people will have to do work. Instead of separating materials into a container for compost versus the recycling, now they’ll have to manage it in an outdoor pile. With some quick education provided by a mix of interns, volunteers and students, the process can be taught rather quickly and fill the void until curbside collection is a reality.
Now that I think about it, how critical is curbside collection if everyone does it at home? Sure, “everyone” is a long shot, but I envision a movement of composting at home. Maybe I dream too much. Either way, if 58% of Denver’s material going to landfill is compostable (which seems higher than the usual numbers), a little education can go a long way here.