Good Life

Recycling | Curbside organics collection is a hit

If you live in the State College borough, you probably participate in the popular curbside organics collection program. More than 80 percent of borough residents have an organics collection bin at their home that they fill with organic matter each week for curbside collection by borough staff. Residents can put items such as food waste, pizza boxes, grass clippings, garden and yard gleanings, leaves, twigs, soiled paper and more in organics bins for collection.

In 2014, borough residents composted 999.22 tons of organic material. That’s material saved from the landfill and material that will be turned into compost. In addition, State College saved $66,948 in refuse tipping fees. These savings help to offset the operating costs of the organics collection program and composting process at the borough’s compost facility.

Residents aren’t the only ones benefiting from organics collection. In 2014, the borough emptied 2,500 65-gallon organics carts from 18 commercial businesses. The average weight of each emptied cart was 115 pounds, meaning 143.49 tons of organics was saved from our landfills and turned into compost, saving the borough $9,614 in refuse tipping fees.

Word spread, and residents outside of the borough began asking for a curbside organics program of their own. They also wanted to save thousands of pounds of organic material from a landfill fate. The Centre Region Council of Governments heard the pleas and knew it was time to get in on the organics recycling action.

The townships participating include Benner, College, Ferguson, Harris and Patton. The COG’s Public Services and Environmental Committee met and evaluated the feasibility of an organics collection program in the five Centre Region townships. It found that the Centre Region would have the potential to remove 3,300 tons per year of organic material from the landfill and put it to beneficial use. The saved tipping fees of $221,000 would offset some of the costs of the new collection and composting program. Typically, through the Centre Region Refuse and Recycling Program, residents landfill 11,000 tons of refuse a year. This program could reduce landfill-bound waste by 30 percent or more.

While the COG’s data support a regional organics recycling program, the success of this type of program hinges on the residents who will use it. A residential survey to determine interest in organics recycling was done from April 1 to May 31. Survey results from more than 700 residents (4.85 percent of the 15,100 customers) indicated more than 80 percent of the respondents are very likely or somewhat likely to participate in a weekly curbside organics recycling program in which residents could recycle both yard trimmings and food waste. It also revealed that 66 percent of the respondents are willing to pay a nominal fee for participation. For the complete organics recycling survey report, visit www.crcog.net/organicsrecycling.

At its Sept. 28 meeting, the COG’s General Forum gave approval to define and develop a regional residential organics recycling program that will meet residents’ demands, control costs and consider customer service issues. The goal would be to have the program ready for the next contract, which begins Jan. 1, 2020.

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