Environment
8:11 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

Solid Waste Public Comments Include Concerns About Handling of Yard Waste

A proposed ban on putting yard waste in plastic bags has won the support of several Louisville residents. The ban was one common element in the 23 written and four spoken comments Louisville’s Waste Management Board received Tuesday evening.

The board is set to vote on Metro Government’s five-year Solid Waste Management plan at a meeting later this month. The plan includes a proposal to ban plastic bags for yard waste by the end of this year, to make it easier to compost. But in the comments, residents said they felt mislead about where the yard waste is actually ending up.

For nearly two decades, there’s formally been a ban on putting yard waste in a landfill in Louisville.

But there’s a loophole—it can be composted, or “beneficially reused.”

And that beneficial reuse is what happens to most of the yard waste put out to the curb in the Urban Services District.

Seventy percent of that waste ends up in the landfill anyway, because it’s contaminated in some way by plastic bags or other materials that aren’t technically yard waste. Instead of turning into compost, the material is used as “daily cover,” which covers trash at the landfill.

Metro Government pays Waste Management $31 a ton to haul away the yard waste. That’s an expense that’s added up to nearly $1.4 million over the last four fiscal years.

Solid Waste Advisory Board Committee member Sarah Lynn Cunningham says diverting the waste to a landfill misleads the public, and Metro Government shouldn’t be paying for what essentially cuts a private company’s operating expenses.

Daily cover is an operating expense,” she said. “The public should not be paying to meet that expense.”

Waste Management landfill manager Marie Burnett says the company would prefer to compost all the yard waste, and supports a plastic bag ban.

“Because we don’t want the plastic either,” she said. “I want everybody to understand that we do not want the contaminants. It’s not a secret, it’s not a secret that we use it for alternative daily cover, it’s never been a secret.”

The board could undertake a plastic bag ban on its own, or try to get it done through the Metro Council, where a similar proposal failed in the past. The board is set to vote on the five-year plan on September 19.

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