OCTOBER 15, 2019 BY 

Pilot program is seeking interested restaurants

By Eleanor Hasenbeck, Steamboat Pilot

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A little over a third of the material Routt County residents send to the landfill is organic waste, according to a 2018 Waste Diversion Study, and about one-fifth of local waste is discarded food.

The city of Steamboat Springs and the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council are pursuing a project that aims to partner with area restaurants to compost some of that food waste.

Currently, there is no residential or commercial composting service in the Yampa Valley. The Milner Landfill composts wood chips and treated human waste from the city wastewater treatment plant.
“It’s a huge portion of our waste, and since we do not have food waste compost currently, that’s going into the landfill, except for, maybe, some people that are doing backyard composting,” said Madison Muxworthy, waste diversion director for the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council. “Twenty-one percent of our waste is unnecessarily going into the landfill, which we could divert through composting or other methods of organics recycling. It’s definitely filling a huge hole, and we’re really excited to support it.”

Restaurant owners interested in participating are encouraged to email her at madison@yvsc.org.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, once these organic materials are buried in a landfill, they begin to decompose without oxygen. The bacteria that break down these materials without oxygen produce methane, a greenhouse gas that is about thirty times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Alternatively, materials in compost decompose with bacteria that use oxygen and produce carbon dioxide. Composting also creates material that can eventually be used as fertilizer.

The pilot project would establish a composting bin within a three-sided enclosure at the Howelsen Rodeo Grounds nearby existing dumpsters. It’ll be a locking, wildlife-resistant container. Materials composted in the bin will be hauled to Milner to be mixed in with the existing compost.

The city is providing funding — about $4,000 — to start up the project, said Brian Ashley, a city facilities maintenance technician and member of the organic waste task force,

Muxworthy added the group is seeking other funding sources to continue the project in the new year.

The project was developed by the organic waste recycling task force, one of six task force groups established to implement the 2019 Routt County Waste Diversion Strategic Plan. Other efforts developing out of that plan include work to increase the availability of recycling in condos and apartment complexes and to improve rates of recycling at construction sites in the valley.

“It is a pilot project, so we’re going into it with the assumption that we’re going to learn from it,” Muxworthy said.

Ashley hopes to have the bin in operation by Christmas.

He said that composting is actually a “fairly poor method of diverting organic material.” It’s better to feed people or livestock with food that would otherwise be wasted or use it to generate energy. The task force is exploring ways to implement these ideas, too, he said. Ashley hopes that the composting pilot program will get people thinking about organic waste.

“I really want to get this started just to get the conversation started and provide different, other areas of improvement once we get it going,” Ashley said.

The project will go before the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Oct. 24 and Steamboat Springs City Council on Nov. 19 for development review.

Muxworthy said the Sustainability Council is also working to gauge community interest in organics recycling. Residents are encouraged to fill out a survey at bit.ly/2OwR9GQ to give insight into what they’d like to see.