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Last updated:
May 03, 2001

 Bozeman Municipal Composting Program  

Location: City of Bozeman, Gallatin County

Population: 28,000

Contact: Roger William Sicz, Street/Sanitation Superintendent, City of Bozeman, PO Box 640, Bozeman, MT 59771-0640, (phone) 406/582-3200

Duration of Program: November 1989 to present

Program Description: As a way to further extend the life-span of the solid waste landfill facility, the City of Bozeman established a compost program. From approximately mid-April to mid-September, the City Sanitation Department would pick up wastes as part of the city's garbage collection service. Yard wastes consist of grass clippings, weeds, leaves, straw, hay and manure, garden plants, sawdust, and small branches and brush.

Compost items put out for collection did not have to have a pay-as-you-throw garbage tag. Customers were asked to place a small sign labeling these bags or cans as compost for easy identification by city crews.

The "free" compost collection service is only offered to residents on City Garbage Collection. All other city and county residents can dispose of their compost materials at no cost if they transport them to the City of Bozeman Solid Waste Landfill and if the material meets the size requirements of 1/4-inch in diameter or smaller.

The program used local radio stations and newspaper to help advertise the compost collection program (see example).

Goal(s) of Program: Get residents to reduce their waste (10-20%) and extend the life of the city's landfill. - Allow residents to have more control over their garbage bills. - Help the City of Bozeman achieve a 25% waste reduction goal.

Target Audience: City of Bozeman and Gallatin County residents. Please note that a particular private hauler did not offer their customers this compost collection service.

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Program Budget: Approximately $15,000 per year

Strategy: Used Since yard waste materials, such as grass clippings and leaves, made up a large portion of a customer's waste stream during six months out of the year, it was decided that maybe this material should be collected and composted.

It became increasingly important to residents on city garbage collection service once the volume- based/pay-as-you-throw garbage collection service was implemented. By utilizing the compost collection service, a customer would be able to reduce their overall waste set out for disposal, thereby allowing them to pay less to get rid of their regular household garbage. In the past customers used to mix their yard waste in with their household garbage.

It was decided to use a rear-load garbage truck with a full-time driver and two seasonal workers on the back to collect the compost materials.

In order to make it easier on the collection crews, customers aree asked to clearly identify their compost, and if bags are used, to please leave them untied. Once the grass is dumped into the packer truck, the plastic bags are left for the customers to reuse.

Results of Program: In the past nine years, the city has diverted over 16,000 tons of yard waste from being buried.

The compost collection program still remains to be very popular with residents on city garbage collection service, as well as other residents who take advantage of being able to take their compostable materials up to the City of Bozeman Solid Waste Landfill for free.

The program may even be more important now because of the city's new automated garbage collection service whereby customers check out a particular size refuse tote which best fits their household's waste disposal needs. Eliminating yard waste from their regular garbage waste stream has saved them a lot of money.

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Program Evaluation Tools: The sanitation superintendent believes that the program is very successful whereby it helped to reduce the amount of refuse going into the city's landfill and it encouraged more people to compost and recycle.

The program was developed at a time when landfill space was becoming an expensive commodity. Back in 1989, some rural communities were paying around $100 per ton of garbage for disposal. By successfully reducing the amount of waste going into the landfill, these communities would have saved money by extending the projected life of existing landfills as well as postponing the costs of siting new solid waste landfills.

Besides trying to save valuable landfill space, the City of Bozeman's Municipal Composting Program was also started in hopes of helping the city achieve its' 25% waste reduction goal.

Barriers Encountered: One of the biggest barriers was trying to decide how to implement a yard waste collection program for residents on city garbage collection service. There were no address in the alleys to help distinguish whose garbage was whose (public hauler versus private hauler).

It was a lot of hit and misses at first, but eventually the compost driver was able to determine who was on city garbage service. After the volume-based tag program began, it was a lot easier because the driver and crew could spot the tags used by city customers.

Another barrier in the beginning was trying to calculate how to mix and blend the yard waste materials being stockpiled at the landfill. Fortunately, the sanitation superintendent had read enough books about composting and had attended a couple of workshops to help determine the best composting process to use. The city did not want to get stuck with thousands of tons of Class II (mixed solid waste) refuse and then have to turn around and bury it. Also, the city wasn't sure exactly what they were going to do with all the decomposed material. As it turned out 99% of the finished product is used on the landfill or other city properties.

Since the City of Bozeman was the first in the state to start a municipal composting program, there was really not a lot of information available locally.

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Program Strengths: One of the strengths would be the fact that people were able to reduce their overall refuse disposal bills. Another would be that the city saved valuable landfill space and that they are working towards their 25% reduction goal as suggested by the state. Another strength would be that the city saved $0.31 per ton for every ton not buried at the landfill. The finished compost product helped establish the badly needed vegetative cover for the landfill required by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Program Weaknesses: One of the weaknesses would be the fact that city residents not using the city's garbage collection service wanted the city to pickup their yard waste materials. This was because the private haulers charged extra to pickup grass, leaves, etc.

Suggestions: It would be a lot more efficient and cost effective to utilize an automated garbage truck with totes for collecting compost. The city could reduce collection costs by as much as 60% once the totes were paid for. One of the backup automated garbage trucks could be used for collection without having to expend funds for a new one.

If the City of Bozeman was able to assess all residents for compost collection it would improve the program and make it more worth while.

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