Florida Keys News
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
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City panel asks the county to compost, not burn, yard waste

An appointed city board is urging county officials to consider composting yard waste rather than incinerate it.

County commissioners this month postponed a decision on a two-year contract worth $1.2 million to burn its yard waste instead of trucking it to Broward County.

The cost savings would be about $24 per ton to have the Ramrod Key company burn the county's waste. Currently, the county pays Waste Management $84.50 per ton to haul its waste to the mainland.

But in the city of Key West, where the forthcoming bid for a trash hauler only mentions composting, not burning, the Sustainability Advisory Board wants the county to reconsider.

"While we applaud the county's efforts in looking for ways to save the ratepayers money in the disposal of yard waste and organics, we must point out that the solution is not the highest and best use of this material," wrote Michael Larson, chairman of the city's Sustainability Advisory Board in a letter released last week.

Board members Ross Williams, Matt Massoud, Rebecca Balcer, Monica Haskell, David Lybrand and Emil Osterling joined Larson in drafting the letter, which was approved by a unanimous vote at the board's December meeting.

The letter is addressed to Rhonda Haag, the county's sustainability program manager.

As of Monday, the latest draft of the letter hadn't been sent to Haag, said Alison Higgins, the city's sustainability coordinator. Haag, who couldn't be reached for comment Monday, takes direction from the county commissioners. On Nov. 20, county commissioners instructed staff to enter into negotiations with Rudy Krause Construction for the burning and grinding of yard waste. Commissioners have considered buying an air curtain burner from a Palm City company that bills the device as "the environmentally friendly alternative to open burning."

Larson's letter points out that such an investment "would likely delay or eliminate the adoption of a compost facility."

In it, he reminds the county administrator that the city hired Kessler Consulting to study Key West's solid waste stream and create a master plan.

"Nowhere in this plan is incineration presented as a sustainable option," Larson wrote.

The one-page letter suggests that "a nearby composting facility would save both transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions."

Trucking the yard waste to a Broward County incinerator costs more per ton and also burns fuel, said Higgins, who helped draft the letter and understands the county's interest in cutting costs.

"I definitely understand the premise, we just have to see the true numbers," said Higgins. "Burning still has greenhouse gases, and composting removes greenhouse gases."

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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