Beginning next year, Dane County’s last remaining compost site will close to make room for a new trash unit, leaving questions of cost increases and many residents unable to transport their yard waste.
Composting is recycling nature. The Environmental Protection Agency defines it as adding organic material to soil to help plants grow —and it’s catching on globally.
In 2017, New York City embarked on a multimillion-dollar campaign to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on landfills by turning food scraps and yard waste into compost, according to the New York Times.
Now, it may become more difficult to achieve clean energy in Dane County.
The county announced in July the Dane County Landfill will close due to lack of space, replacing its compost for a new trash storing facility, according to Director of the Dane County Department of Waste and Renewables John Welch.
The site has seen a decline in the amount of compost it’s received, Welch said. In fact, it’s only seen 150 dump-trucks-full a year, which is about a half of one percent of all the material the landfill takes in total.
The trash facility that’s replacing the compost site is a large hole with liners and other protections to keep trash from causing environmental issues, like making the soil toxic and unusable.
Along with Madison, both Middleton and Waunakee transport their yard waste to Purple Cow Organics in Middleton. While Waunakee and Middleton have already taken their composting materials to other sites, Welch indicated the county government notified six other municipalities of the landfill’s closing.
Around 30 percent of what people throw away are food scraps and yard waste, according to the EPA. Composting these items instead keeps them out of landfills, where they take up space and release greenhouse gases.
For people that want to eliminate raked leaves in their yards or toss out Christmas wreaths at the end of the holiday season, they will no longer have a place at the landfill — forcing many local communities and companies to compost in the private sector.
The county government is encouraging residents to continue composting through private companies, as it can help reduce methane emissions.
Dane County also offered residents one free load of compost per day at Verona and Westport sites in May 2014, when the city announced they would stop bringing compost material to county sites.
The majority of compost material to the Dane County Landfill came from Madison, the state’s largest municipality, according to the Isthmus. It was a way for residents to turn their leaves and yard waste into something valuable: gardening or landscape materials used for new housing developments.
Losing Madison as a composting customer left the county with large fees to pay — a $19,900 increase in one year, said Madison recycling coordinator George Dreckmann.
However, Madison isn’t the only city tackling composting.
Recently, Sun Prairie’s Public Works Department requested $40,000 in the city’s 2020 budget dedicated solely to managing the composting system. There is no detailed plan of this yet.
“We’re exploring all avenues,” said Sun Prairie’s Public Works Director Lee Igl —but even he would rather a private contractor handle the composting.
City officials have yet to comment on the matter.