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Chatham County needs to consider composting as part of a potential landfill solution

By Tom Glendinning
Posted Friday, June 5, 2009

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Pittsboro, NC - I address this issue as the founder of the NC Compost Council and the largest producer of compost in the state at one time (1988-1993) and someone whose corporate efforts were directed toward recycling before it became popular.

The proposed landfill meetings are sponsored by the county. They may provide a solution to support of the trucking industry now used to transport waste across county and state lines. However, the proposed solution will be flawed in design if it does not account for the most efficient and cost-effective strategy overlooked, yet ignored, by officials and bureaucrats many times in the twenty-eight years that alternative were sought.

Composting is capable of recycling up to fifty percent (50%) of most waste streams at a stable cost. The employees are billions of bacteria and fungi which do not even require a panut butter sandwich ofr wage. The product has an infinite market saturation coefficient in horticulture and agriculture. A compost center can integrate town, county, business, industrial and agricultural wastes to produce its product.

The bids I submitted on waste contracts in the 1980's and 1990's had a the cost range of $ 25 - $ 35/ton. This figure would be higher today, but would be offset by compost sales and volume processed. Chatham alone does not have sufficient waste to justify a low tip fee, so other sources from outside would have to be admitted. There are two active composting operations within the county now, whom, I am confident, would accept clean waste (paper, food, ground wood, etc.) They benefit from the market I developed in the 1980's, before they were in business.

Problems existed in the 1980's and 1990's blocking acceptance of composting as a major waste technology. The 'trucking firms,' Waste Management and BFI, defended waste by maligning composting and providing misinformation by hired guns on the process and product. They benefitted from this strategy by getting all the waste hauling, substation, and landfill contracts in the state and region. The consultants yielded to this well funded push, and, further, had no experience in composting. There may be two or four on the east coast who actually can design an effective and workable site. The others are in it for the money without proper experience.

The second problem area was local government and bureaucracy. The priority was to build empires, not serve the public good. I.E., more salaries, more power. More fees, more salaries. Almost to a one, the local govts opened their own facilities because they were enabled to do so by the recycling law (biased toward local govts), refused competent outside contracts, and ran the projects into the ground. One example was a town which spent around six million, that;s right $6,000,000, then closed the site because of odors and public opinion. Had it been properly designed and installed, it would have saved taxpayers money over the years and served as an example of good recycling. I can not think of another way to convince policy makers to vote for a trucking contract with WM or BFI other than to shut down the competition. Strange that our one-time county waste manager used to be an employee of one of those firms who happened to date a county bureaucrat.

And how about the county tax administrator who lost a half billion of tax base records two days before the budget meeting. Oh, that's right, she went to work for Alamance County as tax administrator. Oh, no, she was 'encouraged' to leave that job too.

Ah, well, such is the wisdom of county government. My problem is that I have a long memory. My other problem is that I have developed a shorter fuse the older I get.

Is is time to hold a citizen's meeting on the county budget?

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Chatham County needs to consider composting as part of a potential landfill solution

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