To Collect, Or Not To Collect

The Peoria, Ill., City Council's proposal to lift a 10-year-old ban on yard waste from the county landfill has sparked debate between environmentalists, the city, the county and Houston-based Waste Management Inc., the landfill's operator.

The city, which co-owns the landfill with Peoria County, proposed lifting the yard waste ban for five years to help save approximately $200,000 annually from the city budget. The savings could be reached by collecting household garbage in the same truck as yard waste, according to the Peoria City Council and Department of Public Works.

Waste Management supports lifting the ban to test the bioreactor process and determine whether re-introducing yard waste into the landfill and recirculating leachate would speed decomposition.

Some environmental groups, however, argue that the landfill is not a bioreactor. The Coalition to Oppose Recycling Attacks on America, a group organized by the Athens, Ga.-based GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN), says lifting the ban would reverse the recycling success Peoria has enjoyed for the past 10 years. This also would not save as much money as other methods and is harmful to the environment because it encourages the release of methane and leachate, the coalition says.

"The change that [Waste Management is] supporting in Peoria would have some efficiencies but would still have the city collect yard waste, most of which is grass clippings," says Peter Anderson, a GRRN consultant. Adds Luan Railsback of the Peoria Environmental Action Committee for the Earth (PEACE), "If the city wants to save money, there are communities that collect only leaves and twigs, and not grass clippings."

In a recent cost report sent to Peoria's Public Works Department, Anderson suggested the city solely eliminate grass clippings collection to save an estimated $595,482 per year. "On average, about half of the diversion that America has achieved has been made possible by state and local policies banning grass, leaves and brush from landfills," he says. "As such, yard trimming bans remain one of the two major pillars sustaining [the area's recycling] success."

According to Sarah Voss, Waste Management's corporate communications director, "The yard waste decision is up to the city and county. They own the landfill, and we operate it," she says. "Any decisions regarding a yard waste ban would be up to them, and Waste Management would comply."

Cindy Krider, Peoria public works administrator, says the city council toured the landfill in mid-March and has scheduled a tentative policy session for mid- to late June. The original proposal to lift the ban was approved last year but was rejected by the county board and turned back to the city for a second review.