Borough plans composting pilot project in Homer area

The Homer area may get a little greener with its food waste if a planned composting project comes to fruition.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is planning a demonstration project in Kachemak City, an incorporated second-class city to the east of Homer, that will take food waste from 20 Homer-area businesses and compost it rather than send it to Central Peninsula Landfill, the landfill just south of Soldotna that handles most of the borough’s waste. The borough’s Solid Waste Department has been working on a small-scale composting project for over a year in response to interest from Homer-area citizens.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved a resolution at its June 6 meeting supporting the demonstration project, which is authorized for one year to start and can be cancelled at any time. The project has to pencil out for the borough, though — if it doesn’t save any money over transporting waste to the landfill, it won’t continue.

The only part the borough will fund is the container rentals and the hauling costs through a contractor. The physical land for the compost site is being donated by Kachemak City-based construction company Gregoire Construction.

Luke Gamble, the business manager for Gregoire Construction, said the company does not do composting but was willing to contribute the land for the pilot project.

“We’re happy to help out our community,” he said.

The borough’s Solid Waste Department had a plan to start a similar composting project in Homer last year but ran into some logistical obstacles. The Kachemak City project is the same concept, said Jack Maryott, the director of the borough’s Solid Waste Department.

“We’re going to be collecting food waste from local businesses and restaurants, and then diverting that waste stream out to this facility in hopes to recognize and realize a savings to a taxpayers,” he said.

The plan is to get about 20 businesses to contribute their compostable waste to a hauling route, Maryott said. The borough is not doing the outreach to the businesses, though — that’s been up to representatives from a local group, the Kachemak Advocates of Recycling, one of the original advocates for the composting project.

“It is important to our group to reuse the waste that enter the borough’s landfill(s) and to encourage recycling, re-using, and reducing waste,” wrote Vivian Finlay, the group’s communication contact person in a public comment to the assembly. “Organic and other materials which may be composted need to stay out of the landfill. This pilot project is a good start to evaluate if businesses and the public will support such a program.”

The borough currently contracts with several private haulers to transport waste to Central Peninsula Landfill, where it operates several recycling programs, but no compost program. Private individuals and businesses compost, but the Homer project will be the borough’s first foray into composting.

The only opposition submitted in public testimony was from Soldotna resident Lee Salisbury, who said he opposed “the export of raw ‘green’ garbage out of the city of Homer and dumping it on the ground and leaving it to rot in a residential area of Kachemak City.”

“I have concerns that rotting garbage on this scale will attract be as and other wildlife as well as become a breeding ground for insects and rodents,” he wrote in an email to the borough assembly. “Smell could also potentially be an issue.”

The Kachemak City Council submitted a letter of nonobjection to the project, though a letter from City Clerk Erica Fitzpatrick raised similar concerns about wildlife and bear attracts, odor, late-night noise level and seepage of compost material onto nearby properties.

Assembly President Kelly Cooper, one of the cosponsors on the resolution, said she owns the espresso stand next door to the proposed site and understood that the odors should be minimal with the style of composting being proposed. The project presents an opportunity to put less waste in the landfill, which saves money over the long-term as building new cells costs millions of dollars, Cooper said.

“The less we put in there, the longer amount of time we have before we have to do more cells,” she said.

Maryott said the Solid Waste Department hopes to get the project running this year.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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