The City of Athens’ composting pilot program has elicited mixed reviews from those on City Council.

The pilot project was proposed by the Athens Rural Action committee. The committee proposed a six month trial, which was later approved by Athens City Council last May. The pilot began in July 2018 and ended Dec. 31.

Rural Action committee members Andrea Reany and Erin Sykes presented a powerpoint in May to the council members on their composting proposal. 

The goal for the pilot was to have 200-300 residential households composting. About 265 households signed up, City Council President Chris Knisely said.

Households participating in the program had to consist of four or fewer people, according to the proposal presentation. Each household received a bucket to put the compost in. The buckets could be placed on the curb during the same day as trash and recycling pick up. It was ultimately the families’ responsibilities to clean their containers and know what to put in the buckets. 

Overall, funding the pilot program cost the city $46,000, Knisely said. Of the total cost, $12,900 was allocated for educational purposes. That portion included printing and designing materials to promote the program.

Since the pilot ended, Knisely is happy with the results.

“I am impressed that the pilot program with these 265 households diverted 22.3 tones of organic material from the landfill,” Knisely said in an email. “It puts us one step closer to the ‘zero waste’ concept, which is also a program area of Rural Action.”

Now, the Rural Action committee looks toward the future. 

Between the months of January and February, the committee wants to survey participants on their satisfaction with the program, according to the proposal. In March, they would ideally like to begin a year-long preparation for the launch of a city-wide composting initiative. This would include negotiating a contract, creating an educational campaign, notifying residents and creating an opt-out plan, according to the presentation.

A citywide composting program would cost the city an upward of $300,000, Pat McGee, I-At Large, said. This large cost concerns McGee and brings up the question of possible alternatives.

“Unfortunately (Council) will not consider other ways since we are used to having ‘the solution’ spoon fed to us, and the Mayor will probably not question anything because he can get the money from the "garbage fund," and the city will save money on landfill fees,” McGee said in an email.

McGee questions why backyard or street composting isn’t explored. 

“Why not encourage local gardening with the composting?” McGee said in an email. “As a master gardener graduate we could certainly use it to plant fruit trees along the bike path for instance--after all we partnership with OU don't we?”

McGee has been doing his own composting for more than 21 years. He said that the process is easy, and the problem is that people don’t want to or are not able to do it on their own.

“Now what we have here is a situation where some people say they don't want to do it. And some people say they can't do it because they live in an apartment complex,” McGee said in an email.  

So far, City Council has not mentioned a citywide composting program this year.


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