The first city in the state to start a program to collect table scraps at the curbside from residents is looking to expand. Dubuque resource management coordinator, Paul Schultz, says the curbside collection of table scraps started in 2006. He believes it’s the only residential program of its kinds in the state.
He says the food scraps include everything from pre-prepped materials, to fruits and vegetables, plate scrapings, leftovers, to industrial processed residual material. It also includes food contaminated paper such as napkins and paper plates. Schultz says their program can do more than a backyard composting as the solid waste utility has a company that handles everything on a large scale.
That company grinds the material, puts them in windrows, waters them and screens the final product. Schultz says there’s a high demand for the final compost product as it is better quality than the compost from just yard materials. The state put a limit of 70 tons a year on the collection of compost and Schultz says they have gone beyond that level and want to expand.
He says they have applied for a variance that would take the limits off as long as they are using “best practices” in their composting process. Schultz says they take in about two tons of food scraps from residents every week during the warm months, and that drops some during the winter. He says collecting the food scraps helps extend the life of the landfill, but says there’s the bigger issue of reducing harmful gases.
Schultz says one pound of food scraps in a landfill generates six pounds of methane gas. He says methane is “anywhere from 22 to 72 times more potent than CO2.” Schultz says the curbside pick up and composting reduces harmful gases by as much gas as it would take to drive an S-U-V once around the circumference of the earth. Residents put the food scraps out at the curb in a 13-gallon tub. They pay a very small fee for the service.
Schultz says the cost is 50 cents per month, and that could go lower. He says the reason for the low cost is that the truck to pick up yard debris is already there and it doesn’t cost more to pick up the scraps, and the cost to dump the scraps in the landfill is the same as the composting. He says the only cost is the container, and that is spread out over 10 years.
Schultz says the city has designed its power plant to be able to compost the scraps and collect the methane gas to create electricity. He says that project doesn’t have the funding to move forward at this point.