City, FEDA negotiate compost siteReducing holiday waste
A plot of land on the southeast edge of Fairfield’s industrial park on South 23rd Street could soon be the site of a city compost program.
Tracy Vance, executive director of the Fairfield Economic Development Association, offered to lease it for the community’s use at a Fairfield City Council meeting Monday night. Within days he received a letter of intent from the city Thursday expressing its desire to use the land as a drop-off site for residents to leave grass clippings, leaves and branches.
While Vance said he will need to sit down with the city to negotiate the terms of the lease, he said he’s prepared to lease the land essentially for free, at $1 per year, plus a commitment to build a fence and to maintain the surrounding road.
The project already has the support of key city personnel, such as city administrator Kevin Flanagan, public works director Darrel Bisgard and councilman Michael Halley to help in implementing the program.
It also has support from Fairfield’s sustainability coordinator Scott Timm and Jan Swinton of Pathfinders Resource Conservation & Development Inc. For Timm, the program would fulfill one more piece of the city’s go-green plan he’s been helping the city achieve. The introduction of single-stream recycling in 2011 resulted in the city rapidly exceeding its goal to increase recycling by 75 percent this December. It did not, however, stop the upward trend of tonnage going to the landfill.
Southeast Iowa Multi-County Solid Waste Agency Landfill records show that since Fairfield made its go-green plan in 2008, Fairfield’s residential waste has increased from 12,736 tons for fiscal year 2009 to 13,363 for fiscal year 2012. Citizens sent the most waste to the landfill in fiscal year 2011, at 14,499 tons.
Timm said composting could reduce waste sent to the landfill.
“I think it would be pretty significant,” he said. “If we can divert waste going into the landfill, that’s important for Iowa’s water quality and the money and resources going into waste disposal.”
The other advantage of the program, he said, is it creates a product, which is good for the environment and useful to residents.
“It’s a large scale rebuilding of soil, producing high quality compost people can use,” he said. “Everybody wins with that.”
Bisgard said a composting program would expand upon the city’s semiannual brush pickup. Bisgard said that program has been successful because it diverts waste from the landfill and turns it into a product the community can use. Mulch from the fall pickup still is available behind O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and Fairfield Hy-Vee Food and Drug Store. He said city personnel will help residents load the material into a truck if they choose.
However, during the rest of the year Bisgard said residents no longer have anywhere to bring yard waste. The wastewater treatment plant used to accept yard waste until they took on major construction projects and additions at the plant, he said.
“We know we’ve got to do something, it’s just a question of what extent do we want to do it,” he said.
Those involved do not all agree on what should be allowed to be composted, with some discrepancies of whether food scraps should be part of the program.
Timm said he’s spoken with Swinton about the possibility of using food scraps from restaurants, chain stores and the health center.
Timm said grants are available through the Department of Natural Resources, which could help pay for composting equipment. He said such programs might not be implemented right away.
“We’re going to start small,” said Timm.
Bisgard said the same.
“We won’t use food waste at this point,” he said. “That’s a whole other can of worms. We’ll start small and be efficient in what we’re doing,” he said.
Vance said he’d be apprehensive to allow food scraps, but said it’s not off the table at this time. Vance’s main concern is keeping the site clean, without a foul odor or attracting rodents.
“That’s probably one of the things we’ll be discussing at length,” he said. “FEDA wants to make sure we can still market the site as a development site, and I think the city understands that.”
The group said they’re still in the planning stage and are looking to surrounding communities to learn about successful composting programs. As former chairman of waste authority for Lee County, Vance will be taking the group on a fieldtrip Wednesday to Fort Madison to tour the compost program at the landfill there.
Reducing holiday waste
Fairfield’s sustainability coordinator Scott Timm shares a few ideas to minimize what goes to the landfill this holiday season:
• Reuse gift bags people have given you;
• Give gifts that support humanitarian projects or social causes. Example: the Earth Education Project.
• Use nondisposable material to wrap presents. “I’ve seen gifts in beautiful cloth wrapping,” said Timm. “You don’t have to use packaging that will be thrown away.”
• Use recycled material to make your gifts.