Council gives green light to city-wide composting program

By Kristen Laskey
Los Alamos Daily Message
[email protected]

By unanimously approving municipal-wide composting, the Los Alamos County Council is optimistic it will be a win for everyone – environmentally and economically.

At the September 6 regular council meeting, a motion was passed directing the county executive to implement a food composting system in Bayo Canyon that will generate compost soil. Drop-off sites at the Eco Station and Overlook Collection Center will be made available to residents while curbside pickup will be offered to businesses. The Board further proposed that the program be incorporated into the revised environmental services associated fees and the development of the FY2024 budget.

“Providing food waste composting services to the community is a great way to reduce our impact on the environment and decrease greenhouse gas emissions from transporting and landfilling organic materials,” said Angelica Gurule, environmental services division manager, at the Los Alamos Daily Post. “The compost generated by this program will be high-quality, food-grade compost that can be safely used for food crops and will help retain water.”

At the September 6 meeting, Gurule explained that the Environmental Services Board had recommended the composting program, which she said would divert up to 4,500 tonnes of organic matter, including 3,000 tonnes of yard waste and 1 500 tons of food waste, each year from landfill. . As a result, she said there would be cost savings by avoiding freight and landfill charges. Additionally, the county could earn revenue from the sale of high-quality compost. Gurule said a conservative estimate is $70,000 per year or $10 per cubic meter.

Gurule added that the council’s decision on this project will have other impacts on environmental services.

“Your decision tonight will help shape the environmental services tariffs that we expect to submit to the Board for approval in the coming months,” she said.

Gurule said the capital investment for the food composting program will require a short-term loan of $2,011,000 which will be repaid through taxes on gross revenue from environmental services. According to his presentation, the operating cost will be $581,341 annually. This includes three new full-time employees for a seven-day operation. The timeline for the project, she added, is two to three years. During this time, the project will be authorized, the site updated, the equipment purchased and the program deployed.

It’s the most cost-effective composting option, Gurule said. Plus, it offers a solution to excess garden cutting material. The program has received universal support from the board.

Council chairman Randall Ryti pointed out that the only other option for garden waste is to send it to landfill, which is more expensive. Gurule said the cost is nearly $60 a ton to transport and dispose of the materials to landfill.

“If we don’t have that program, we would have to re-evaluate the yard cutting program because there’s such an excess…we send a small portion of it to the composting operation at the waste treatment plant. waste ; however, there is an excess of material that requires a final solution,” she said.

Councilor Sara Scott said she appreciates the work that has gone into this project.

“I very much appreciate the additional homework and development of the business case that has been done…it really helps to show us and the citizens the potential long-term economic benefits as well as the environmental benefits. .. I think that really helped clarify how this approach kind of has both kinds of impacts…” Scott said.

Councilor David Izraelevitz said he was initially skeptical of the project but now sees the benefits.

“It’s an interesting project and I can’t wait to see what kind of response we get from the community, but I’m optimistic the business case has been made,” he said.

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