By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

City-wide composting service will be up for debate at a Keizer City Council meeting Tuesday, July 6.

The group will be asked whether compost – mostly meaning food waste – should be picked up along with yard debris, piled in the green can Keizer garbage service customers are familiar with. The council will have to decide whether said service would be weekly or bi-weekly.

It would add $1.68 per month to households using the green can.

“We are a proponent of every-week service due to smells, bees and such,” said John Sullivan, general manager of Loren’s Sanitation. “But we’ll do whatever the city asks of us.”

With the program virtually any organic food waste would be mixed in with yard debris. Things like bread, coffee filters and grounds, dairy products, egg shells, produce, meats, pizza boxes and seafood shells could be disposed of in the green can, instead of in with the trash. Plastic bags, animal waste, foil, grease, metals and personal hygiene products would continue to go in the garbage.

The goal is to get “anything we can divert from the waste stream, or better yet, find another use for it,” according to Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano, a retired president of United Disposal Service. “Everything we get out adds more capacity at our waste energy facility. … You’d much rather find uses for other materials than just waste it, even if it generates electricity like it does in Marion County.”

compost keizer green can

Garbage collected in Keizer is sent to the Marion County Waste-to-Energy facility, which burns the trash to generate electricity. Capacity for more waste is quickly running out there, officials say, and sending some of what would go there to a composting facility could put off the need to expand it.

“The burner plant is at near-capacity,” City Manager Chris Eppley said. “Making modifications to the burner plant, which we all pay for as part of our rate and county taxes, would be extremely costly. Anything we can do to postpone or minimize improvements on that plant benefits all of us.”

Whether the service is weekly or bi-weekly “depends on whether the council thinks it will benefit the community,” Eppley said.

And while the cost of adding the service means a slightly higher garbage bill, Eppley said some customers may find they don’t need such a big garbage bin now that food waste can be composted.

“People are going to have an opportunity, at least those who aren’t on the smallest can … to actually reduce the size of the garbage can, in essence reducing the cost, every month,” Eppley said.

Sanitation officials don’t expect critters, insects or odors to be much of a problem – so long as pickup is weekly.

“We did a lot of research with jurisdictions in Olympia, Seattle and in California that have had the program up and running for some time,” said Mary Kanz, executive director of the Mid-Valley Garbage and Recycling Association. “The only negative we could find were the programs that started with bi-weekly service in the hot areas.

“As far as flies, critters and smells, no problems – grass mitigates the odors,” she said.

Customers would be encouraged to layer food waste with grass – and never put food on the bottom of the can. Options to avoid this could be freezing the food – removing any container before putting it in the can – or used shredded paper to absorb any dripping, Kanz said.