City Government

Boise Composting Could Be Rotten Deal

Boise City Couuncilors will consider a proposal Tuesday to offer curbside composting at a cost of about $3.40 per month for the average household.
Bulldozer compacter working in a landfill in Boise, Idaho.
On the face of it the idea of cutting the amount of garbage in the landfill and the methane gas it generates sounds like a good deal. We certainly agree with the CONCEPT of recycling, but sometimes it just doesn’t “pencil out.”

Ada County Commishes just paid off Fortistar, a methane-recovery-electric generating firm, a cool $2 million for the rights to “excess methane gas,” generated at the landfill.

If Boise residents put their table scraps and other bio solids in green boxes for composting at the city-owned 20 Mile South Farm, affectionately dubbed the “Poop Farm,” that will cut the methane greenhouse gas at the landfill. Sounds good, but how will that impact Ada County and their deal with Fortistar? The rotting garbage is the “fuel” for the methane-powered electricity generator which earns cash for the county. In a nutshell, if a third bin is put curbside, that will mean a 33% increase in garbage trucks and a big jump in staff to sort the “non-compostables” out of the system.
Methane gas recovery equipment generates electricity at a sanitary land fill in Boise, Idaho. trash, landfill, land fill, methane, gas, generator, power, electricity, energy, sanitary land fill, methane gas
Meanwhile, Boise city fathers and mothers have purchased (or nearly purchased) 120 acres of land –with an assessed value under $70,000– for about $550,000 north of Kuna-Mora Road for a police shooting range. Boise coppers say the location is better than the 4,000 acre Poop Farm because it is about 8 miles closer to town, therefore saving coppers gas to visit the training site. Seems a contradiction to claim to save gas for coppers, but create an exponential increase in trash truck mileage.

We question the wisdom of making hundreds of 40 mile round trips a week with trash trucks to dump garbage for composting, all in the name of cutting pollution. The planners in the city also want to charge us an extra $40 a year for the composting and turn around and provide half the finished product back to us as fertilizer. They claim in a STATESMAN story that some of the compost will be used at the Poop Farm.

What scares the GUARDIAN is the rush to judgement–both on the police shooting range and the composting scheme. Before the council acts this Tuesday, we need some concrete answers to the rotting questions. The big one is: “Will the pollution of natural gas trash trucks traveling an extra 40-80 miles a day be less than the methane generated and recovered at the landfill?”

Many of those answers will have to come from Republic Services, the trash contractor for both the city and the county. To our knowledge there has never been a resolution as to exactly WHO owns the trash. The issue has been raised in the past with regard to recycling commodities such as paper, aluminum, and plastic. At least in the case of Fortistar vs Ada County, it seems some of the stuff belongs to Fortistar.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Rotting Food Stinks
    May 21, 2016, 8:48 pm

    Smells like extra tax revenues to the local governments. Did anyone bother to tell the city idiots that the primary reason for having a sanitation service is to keep the areas we live sanitary.

    Rotting food is stinkier that rotting diapers. Despite AlGore claims, maggots are not healthy to keep around the house.

    This bunch of city hall nitwits would have us drinking from puddles if they could figure out a way to tax us for it.

    I wondering how big of a donation it would take to get Bieter to move to Portland. We could set up a go fund me page and just let it run until big enough for him to bite.

  2. Brian Vermilion
    May 22, 2016, 6:42 am

    Dave the details simply do not matter. The composting proposal has the ultimate selling point in it which is the “green” angle. They want and will get $3.40 per month from every household in the city regardless of whether or not the details make sense.
    We’re going to have to expand our garage in order to store our ever expanding fleet of 2-wheeled dumpsters.

  3. Yes, one more dumpster in the front/side yards of many Boiseans. Why? Because their garage is full of junk and it’s far easier to walk out front (around the 4 live and dead vehicles) and drop off their trash/recycle/food than make a place in their garage.

  4. chicago sam
    May 22, 2016, 3:02 pm

    In the be careful what you wish for department there is no mention of the extra wear and tear on city streets and county roads of the damage done to streets by a fully loaded garbage truck.

    A study done in Spokane which rates a passenger car at 1, rates a 10 yard concrete truck at 5,100, a fire truck at 1,700, and a fully loaded garbage truck as high as 13,700.

    In addition they say one trip by a large garbage truck in residential areas can cause more street damage to a road in a week than all the other traffic combined.
    Streets are not built to withstand heavy truck use as main roads are.

    Under Idaho law it is illegal to single out garbage trucks for street maintenance but there is some justification to raise garbage fees for street maintenance. Nampa has a 15% surcharge on garbage bills which is currently diverted to the street fund. Over $1,000,000/ year. Not strictly legal but somewhat justified. So consider the extra costs to repair streets if you go for a third bin.

  5. Public works director says, “how it actually works out remains to be seen”.

    There’s a good proposal.

    All cities *should be* doing composting as part of an essential recycling program.

    Fortunately Republic Service has experience with raping other municipalities for this same service and their experience will pull Boise Council through the learning curve- with enough money, of course.

    Here for example is from their Corvallis operation:

    However, this proposal will only use households yet is based on reducing the 40% of waste going in the landfill.
    So commercial waste, schools, restaurants, grocers, growers, and agriculture will be ignored. Okay 5% of the organic waste will be diverted. Yippee!

    A household will pay $3.40 to the city and the city will pay Republic Services $5.86 with a 10 year extension on their contract.
    Nice deal for Republic!

    Yet the city OWNS the compost, instead of just contracting the whole deal to Republic: “haul it away and it’s yours”. There’s something fishy there.

    City plans to “sell 50% of the materials and provide the remaining back to City facilities and to the public at no charge.”
    I am glad I am not in the retail composting business competing with a city that will need to UNLOAD a LOT of compost at almost nothing prices in order to get rid of it. Supply and demand baby!
    Sales of compost at local nurseries should go DOWN next summer.

    Does the glass recycling program ring a bell for anyone?
    Maybe ACHD can sell some of the crushed glass to Republic to build the aggregate base for water drainage? I must be a recycling genius!

    One thing that is missing from this proposal is carbon. Good compost needs a lot of carbon; more than the fall leaf collection. So in addition to hauling, nasty, watery, stinky banana peels (that have been sitting in 100 degrees Boise July heat for a week) out to the poop farm, someone will have to haul woody recycle product out there too- year around. Yeah, that same stuff already being collected and separated at the County landfill.
    So the city will be competing with current PRIVATE compost/recycling programs. I take my stuff to Diamond Recycling. Maybe Republic will contract with them for some carbon material. Funny that in a BW article Diamond was touting their sales of compost…. or free from the city?

    100 days cycle is based on temperature. Winter vs summer processing is different.

    Composting still produces methane.
    In an open system there is no way to capture that methane as there is in a covered landfill. Sorry Al Gore! It’s not 100% perfect.

    Other cities are charging more per household for the service. At least the city could charge the real cost instead of intentionally losing money.
    Denver charges $10/mo for the same service.

    Good idea, but this haste will make waste- particularly not working with Ada County to make a county-wide program AT the landfill.
    Smell? If this compost produces a smell greater than the current landfill, someone will need to be fired.

    Good idea.
    Bad execution is my prediction.

  6. I’m with west sider. Maybe the mayor and council can add a tad more to the garbage fee and hire more code enforcers to enforce city code which states you can NOT leave your garbage containers either out front or in the alley all week long. Even the alley behind stately Harrison is full of garbage cans and weeds. Except for the SNOW Block, that’s an alley done right.

    My questions:

    We already have 2 or 3 free market operators taking lawn debris and turning it into compost. Where do they fit into the equation?

    What happens when contaminated compost is used to grow food in community gardens? Greenies aren’t going to like it when they find out grass clippings used for compost are very likely coated herbicides, pesticides, sewer line overflows, motor oil and who knows what else.

    What about ACHD’s fall street leaves?

  7. Yossarian_22
    May 23, 2016, 10:36 am

    OK…THIS is ridiculous. When it comes to composting, it doesn’t make any economic or ecological sense to me if we are going to expend fossil fuels to move food scraps and other organic waste around the valley. I compost at my home and that is the best place to do it. Keeping compost as close to point of origin is much greener than moving it around. But, if you have an excess that you cannot repurpose, then yes…you can justify transport. We should be encouraging localized composting that doesn’t require a massive program of moving everything to a centralized location. And frankly, if the City sees food scraps as a valuable input, then why would I PAY to have it taken away. Why not PAY ME for it by offering me a discount off of my solid waste bill. We should be rewarded for our efficiency, not penalized for it.

    boisecynic makes a good point on quality control. We can’t account for contamination that well in this centralized system. QC is best determined at the P2P level between generator and user. Boise seems to want to be the middle man in this scheme.

    Personally, I feel we should consider a would be throwaway item in the order of – can this item be 1) repurposed/reused 2)recycled in mfrg/energy 3) safely disposed of.

  8. Has anyone thought about how wonderful these containers are going to smell in July and August? Or how about the increase in flies and other pests that just love this stuff. Or the trail of ooze that will leak from the trucks as they travel through the neighborhoods. Forget it just dump it and if they want to compose let them go through the garbage at the dump..

    EDITOR NOTE–There is nothing wrong with composting, but as a commenter notes, it is counter productive to transport stuff for composting other than the landfill.

  9. This is very simple, offer to residents a service to provide a compost container and pick up service, and charge a fee for what that service costs. Let the citizens choose what services they want to pay for, do not take what the City thinks is a good idea and force everyone to pay for it.

    I do my own composting for my garden for free, and do not want to be charged for an option service I do not want or need.

  10. Also left out of the equation:

    Professional lawn care companies. Have any of you seen how loaded down their trailers are with grass clippings Where do they fit in to this equation?

    There is no way the grass clippings from some lawns on Harrison or in the foothills is going to fit in one little bin. So do landscapers get to dump at the city facility? No way are they driving that far.

  11. City should buy the containers, provide them to households then the ADA County Jail alternative sentencing program collects the bins.

    Alternatively able-bodies individuals on social assistance programs could be required as condition of such assistance to be the labor that picks up these bins. Might see enough people get off welfare to pay for the program itself from savings.

    These ideas align sustainability goals with social justice where those receiving social benefits are providing a social service. This is a program I would gladly pay $10 a month for, even though I think it could pay for itself from savings on entitlement programs.

  12. Surely the city had an engineer do a feasibility study that would answer all questions.. Right?

  13. I have read the 3 or 4 articles out there and have yet to see what the county’s opinion of such diversion. Does Boise have a contract for a certain amount and/or a certain mix of waste?

  14. Whether it is airport noise or trolleys, the charge is likely find the assumptions that allow for the desired data to support the predetermined recommendation/conclusion for such feasibility study.

    Then after the project is completed do not study the actual outcomes, versus focus on the social principals and social justice, and how these projects make Boise the most livable city in the US, so we can make some other internet top 10 list.

  15. It’s all about the money. Add another $9 million in TAX revenue to the slush fund. It is simple – this is a tax.

  16. Here is a current job posting from the city:
    Solid Waste Environmental Analyst Full Time $46,717.00 – $54,496.00 Annually

  17. As jj says, where are the county commissioner’s on this idea? It’s their budget that pays for the landfill.

    City taxpayers better get ready to BOHICA.

  18. Rotting Food Stinks
    May 26, 2016, 12:50 am

    LOLOLOL County Commish is still deep sea fishing off Cuba. They’ll make an appearance just before the November election. They get paid too much for a part time gig. The pay is so good for Boise that former commissioners are willing to risk being tossed out onto their other cheek in attempt to get back on the throne.

    In other news, Bieter has decided to implement an appliance tax. All households will be inspected by an overpaid fat guy with bad plumber’s crack and a strong odor of Goldbond and Bengay (his bonus is based on water savings). Each appliance found will be taxed at 1 Euro per pound per month (Euro because it does not say God on it.) If the fat guy makes you uncomfortable in your safe space, and you are a certified minority, they will send an equivalently attractive lady. (The lady may not be available if the circus is in town, so it might be the fat guy in drag.) Absolutely no reason for this tax, but they’re gonna do it anyway because the NorthEnd dopes never saw a tax they didn’t like. I’ve heard their giving away one of two roads into their neighborhood and voting for higher taxes too. Geniuses!

    Appliance tax is waved for any household with no sewer and water service and a compost pile in the family room.

    As for the composting scam. It sounds like the gas production of the landfill will be infringed upon once again. Does that company get to sue again too?

  19. Please Mayor provide an actual cost benefit analysis for this composting scheme. Consider startup cost as wellas most only compost for 5-6 months per year. Also, look at the carbon foot print added for fuel, more rucks, plastic cans sitting idle for most of the year.

  20. 2007 Boise Solid Waste report is interesting. I learned:
    – No contract at the time with Ada County (is there one now??)
    – Boise is 67% of Hidden Hollow business
    – projected rate for every-other-week collection with a 95 gallon wheeled
    cart: $3.55 per month. (City is telling us now it is $8.40, but only $3.40 with discount)
    – people want curbside composting.
    – composting facility will need up to $1million for equipment

  21. I looked at the City web site and couldn’t find anything on this proposal. Might have missed it though.

  22. Here is the video of the meeting. Start at about 1:37 or 1:38.

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