Officials debate leaf composting funding

Published: Wed, August 7, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken


The core values of recycling were at issue in the debate over potential curtailment of funding for leaf recycling and composting due to the Mahoning County Recycling Division’s budget crunch.

The debate concerning that $74,000 budget item occurred at a Tuesday meeting of the county’s solid waste policy committee.

How much, if any, funding the county will provide its townships and municipalities for leaf collection will be discussed and resolved at a 9:30 a.m. Sept. 9 meeting of the committee at the county board of elections conference room at Oakhill Renaissance Place on Oak Hill Avenue.

The discussion occurred in the context of reduced income to the recycling division due to reduced landfill dumping and last year’s closing of the Central Waste Landfill in Smith Township, which leaves the county with only two active landfills.

The recycling division is funded by fees landfills pay for each ton of waste dumped.

The division is exploring new ways to cut spending as it expects to end this year with a balanced budget. It expects to collect about $2.3 million in revenue, spend about $2.9 million, and make up the difference with about $600,000 in carry-over money from 2012 to 2013, but have no carry-over into 2014, said Lou Vega, county recycling director.

“I don’t see the harm in letting the bags [of leaves] go to the landfill,” where decomposing leaves and other waste produces methane used to generate electricity, said Bob Orr, a Springfield Township trustee.

“It actually provides some cover for the trash that’s there,” Orr said of the yard waste.

The leaves take up landfill space, replied Jennifer Jones, Youngstown litter control and recycling coordinator.

“The whole purpose of our programs is to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills,” Jones said, acknowledging the recycling division’s financial constraints.

“We love organics in the landfill. We supply enough electricity for 18,000 homes a day,” at the methane-fueled electric generating plant at the Carbon Limestone landfill in Poland, said Michael Heher, landfill manager.

The Carbon-Limestone landfill will be active for the next 80 years, he added. “If you bring us the leaves, you’re also going to get fees on those leaves,” Heher told the committee.

Even if county funding needs to be cut for leaf recycling, Vega said he still encourages the public to compost leaves. Composting is the process of recycling organic materials.

“We still are about recycling and about the environment and about reducing our reliance on landfills,” Vega said, noting that a recycling division-sponsored composting seminar will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mill Creek MetroParks Farm in Canfield.

The county has funded leaf recycling and composting programs in its townships and municipalities for the past five or six years, Vega said.

Landfills are permitted to accept leaves and other yard waste from residential yards as long as it’s mixed with residential garbage, but lawn-care and leaf- removal professionals must take the yard waste they collect to a composting facility, Vega said.

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