Curbside composting: Linden Hills is trying it. Why can’t Northfield?

MPR aired this story about a month ago: Minneapolis to try curbside composting

tcompostbinFor a year-long test period, residents of the Linden Hills neighborhood will be able to put food scraps and other previously unrecyclable paper products out on the curb to be composted.

The program promises to reduce the amount of garbage that goes into landfills, reduce the release of greenhouse gasses, and possibly provide a source of renewable energy.

Seems like Northfield could pull this off, given our high rate of recycling and our long history with the top-of-the-line Rice County landfill. San Francisco has been doing it (see here and here). 

So what’s holding us back?

9 thoughts on “Curbside composting: Linden Hills is trying it. Why can’t Northfield?”

  1. I am trying to get developers in Dundas to provide for embedded composting facilities similar to those I have seen in St. Paul. These small, local sites would be part of the original plat, and would provide easy access for local homeowners to a neighborhood composting site. They could even be placed next to a small community garden (we actually nearly got this as part of a plan for some housing embedded in the hillside behind Car Time). This embedding, as part of platting, gets around several problems:

    * NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)! Well, the compost site was there when you bought the house, so sit down.

    * where to put it? We already have the space held out for it, so no problem.

    * ease of access? I’d ask that it be within yard-tractor with a little wagon distance with a clear route identified (one that allows such traffic.

    * who would use it? Eventually, with luck, the neighborhood would fill with people who believed in things like that, because it would be seen as an amenity they would pay to have. But if no-one used it, well, we are a free society, and it would just be a little bit more green space, because it would be too small to have a house built on it (even with the garden space).

    This is consistent with the Dundas Comprehensive Plan, so it is mostly a matter of political will and having staff that will raise this as a feature we desire (I, personally, would like to make that “we require”, but even in Dundas it is not a slam-dunk). But our staff, city engineer and city planner are aware of this possibility and can raise this as an amenity we would like to see (when talking with developers).

    It is so much easier to do this up front than it is to retrofit an existing neighborhood. I hope to see such a site in Dundas very soon after the housing market re-awakens.

  2. When we were in Cambridge, UK, the city had recently set a goal of reducing landfill waste by 1/3 by composting. It worked like this for residents: every household had two wheelie bins (those are the big trash cans) one for trash (black) and one for compostables (green, of course). In addition, we had a blue bin (like Northfield’s recycling bins) for newspapers and a black bin for glass, plastic and metal. In week one, we’d put out the black wheelie bin and black bin; week two would be the green and blue bins. The program was successful and, once we got the hang of it (by peeking out the window to see which bins the neighbors had put out, mostly) not difficult to manage from the residents’ perspective. I’d like to know what the relative costs were to the city, in addition to the savings in landfill capacity.

  3. The Rice County landfill is located in Bridgewater Township. We have discovered in our township planning and zoning work that the Rice County landfill has 8-10 years capacity remaining.

    These efforts at recycling and composting, making the best use of the existing land, and extending the life of the landfill, are worth exploring.

    Anyone know what the long range county plan for solid waste is?

  4. Bruce/Betsey/Kathleen, thanks for chiming in on this compost issue. Since the capacity of the landfill is an issue, is there a way that the Rice County Commissioners could take the lead on this now?

  5. Bridgewater Township passed a landfill hosting fee last week, which will allow us to fund a plan to repair the damage of past generations and to change what we do in the future. (The Rice County landfill, used by Northfield, Faribault, and all of Rice County is in Bridgewater Township.) Just because garbage is under ground doesn’t mean it goes away.

    What should happen next?

    As I understand it, the committee overseeing the landfill includes Mike Cook, the director, and two commissioners – Milt Plaisance and Jake Gillen. How about citizen involvement on this committee? We need a strategic plan for the future.

    Stop treating rural roads as garbage dumps!
    Just because the Rice County landfill is closed when you want to dump something, it’s not OK to leave it on the side of the road. Folks (and some businesses) regularly use township roads to dump their worn-out tires, used flourescent lights, old furniture, and other garbage.

    Explore new technology – Glen Castore, from our township, has been researching small, next generation, clean incineration units – converting trash to alternate energy.

    Used batteries (yes, the AA batteries Santa is putting in your children’s stockings) and low energy CFL bulbs, and other electronics are toxic waste. When you throw them into the garbage, the lead and mercury and other chemicals will eventually leach into your children and grandchildren’s drinking water. Begin regular toxic waste pickup throughout the county.

    Create single source recycling. I don’t know about you, but we use paper bags from the grocery store just to separate our recycling.

    In fact, ban plastic bags made of petroleum products from any store in Rice County. Plastic never fully decomposes and causes a health risk to wildlife. If they can do it in California, why not here?

    Instead of allowing demolition landfills all over Rice County, as the county commissioners allowed last week, change our local practices to recycle most demolition – using green building and LEED standards.

    Allow – in fact, encourage – metal roofs on houses in our building codes. They look good, last long, are not made out of petroleum products, and can be recycled.

    St. Olaf College composts all the kitchen/cafeteria waste for 2,000 people, 3 meals a day. How about the school district stepping up and doing the same in its kitchens? Besides being good for the environment, it’s a good lesson for our children – something they can do for their environmental future.

    If all the restaurants in our area started using composting garbage disposals, that would reduce the load on our water treatment plant considerably. Perhaps they could check in with Bon Appetit, and learn how they compost everything? Give a tax break or some other incentive for all commercial, composting garbage disposals.

    In fact, if everyone in our wider community stopped using kitchen garbage disposals and composted instead, that would significantly extend the life and usage of our water treatment plant – and keep Northfield/Dundas taxes low over time.

  6. Hey, synchronicity strikes again. I’d love to see this kind of program in place. I remember hearing critics of organic gardening say there would never be enough compost for large-scale agriculture, but just imagine what could be done if widespread municipal composting were in place.

  7. More community good-idea news: A group has begun gathering and talking around the possibility of a community kitchen. This facility would be used by local producers needing a certified kitchen, food business start-ups and caterers, teachers and students of cooking classes, home canners needing space for large projects. And more!

    We have put together a needs assessment survey. Hard copies will be available at the co-op, but we also have an on-line survey. Completing the survey would help determine how best to set up such a facility, so we appreciate all and any comments. Survey at:

    http://nfldkitchen.pbwiki.com/Northfield+Community+Kitchen

    Thanks for your support and input.

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