New truck will let city expand its commercial composting

Monday, August 19, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:51 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Organic waste is collected at the City of Columbia Sanitary Landfill on Thursday. The city eventually sells the compost at the landfill and through local stores.

COLUMBIA — More than 4.5 sloppy tons of overripe watermelons, cabbages, oranges and other produce make a pungent mound. That was Thursday's haul of food waste, dumped next to a pile of mulch at the city's commercial composting facility.

The city collects an average of 30 tons of food waste each month from several businesses, and a new collection truck that's in the works will allow the total tonnage to keep increasing.

Compost Information

Got food waste?

  • Businesses: Contact Layli Terrill at 573-874-6254. She will come and assess how much you could save by composting food waste. The minimum compost pickup is 2 cubic yards collected once a week.
  • Individuals: Attend a free composting workshop at the Capen Park Demonstration Site at 6 p.m. Tuesday. For more information, contact Andrea Shelton at 573-874-6271. Participants will receive a free basic compost bin or can purchase a deluxe model for $20, a quarter of its wholesale price.

Want dirt?

  • Columbia’s Own compost can be purchased at Menards at 3340 Vandiver Drive and two Hy-Vee stores at 3100 West Broadway and 405 East Nifong during the gardening season.
  • If you're contemplating a larger project, you can buy compost by the cubic yard at the Compost Facility at 5700 Peabody Road. According to the City of Columbia website, bulk compost costs $12 per cubic yard. Orders of more than 100 cubic yards are discounted to $8 per cubic yard.

The new truck will let the city expand its collection and keep more organic waste out of the landfill.

“We’ll have the capacity to handle all large generators of food waste in Columbia," said Layli Terrill, waste minimization supervisor for the Columbia Public Works Department Solid Waste Division.

The truck will be financed by a $53,500 grant from the Mid-Missouri Solid Waste Management District and $35,000 from the solid waste utility. Terrill said she expects it will take about six months to get the new truck on the road.

A new truck's improvements

The new truck will be a significant improvement over the sealed refuse truck the city  uses in its commercial compost operation.

The current truck is unable to hold a large capacity, necessitating extra trips to the compost facility at the city landfill, Terrill said.

The city collects food waste from Columbia’s three Walmarts, Sam’s Club, State Farm Insurance, the Hy-Vee on Nifong Boulevard and Florist Distributing Inc. on Nelwood Drive.

"We hope to expand to more businesses," Terrill said. "It’s not limited to just big-box stores. We’d like restaurants and other businesses with cafeterias, as well.”

The new truck would also make collecting from the city's dozens of public schools a possibility, Terrill said.

Larry Middlekauff of Florist Distributing Inc. began participating in the commercial composting program almost two months ago.  The company distributes flowers to about 40 flower shops, and every week the dumpster is full of flowers that were too old to sell, Middlekauff said.

Nationwide, after some waste is diverted for recycling and composting, more than a fifth of the remaining waste is food, according to a 2011 EPA fact sheet.

In 2011, only 3.9 percent of the nation's 36.31 million tons of food waste were recovered through composting.

Commercial composting program a boon to businesses, city and residents

For companies, Terrill said, the benefits of composting are two-fold.

"Not only is the pickup fee less, but you’re decreasing trash," she said. "So even though you’re adding another service, your costs will go down.”

For example, the minimum food waste pickup of 2 cubic yards costs $55.97, whereas the same quantity of trash costs $65.81, a savings of $9.84.

By composting, the city saves space in the landfill, uses the compost on landscaping projects and generates revenue through compost sales, Terrill said. The city compost, branded as Columbia's Own, can be purchased at local retail outlets.

The compost adds nutrients to the soil for better looking yards and more fertile gardens, Terrill said. She noted the transportation of similar products from afar produces greenhouse gases.

The compost program has diverted 686 tons of food waste since it began in December 2011, Terrill said.

In the first 10 months of this fiscal year, the city collected 28,175 tons of commercial solid waste. Given that Columbia composts an average of 30 tons a month, that’s about 300 tons of compost so far this fiscal year, or slightly more than 1 percent of the total commercial solid waste.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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Chris Cady August 19, 2013 | 4:46 p.m.

I'm very glad to see this happening and we need more of it. What I don't understand, though: I thought the City wanted all the organic waste in the landfill and actually went to the Legislature to get the law changed. Did we change our minds? Don't get me wrong, I think it's great, and was never in favor of dumping all the yard waste into the landfill in the first place. Food and yard waste should go back into the soil where it belongs.

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