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October 30, 2013

Officials: Compost plan will soon bear fruit

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — COOPERSTOWN — Fifteen months after it was launched, a new composting program backed by Otsego County is ready to begin making 80-pound sacks of the decayed organic material to county residents.

The $30,000 pilot program, created by the Otsego County Soil & Water Conservation District, has been compiling food scraps from county facilities and mixing it with yard waste and wood chips, at a pad made with crushed stone and measuring 100 feet by 100 feet alongside the county jail.

The food waste comes from the jail, the 174-bed Otsego Manor and the county’s central kitchen.

Jordan Clements, a technician with the Soil and Water Conservation District, said the program is seeking to find additional sources of organic waste that could increase the volume of compost that will be available to the public.

There are plans to approach businesses, schools and towns to see if they wish to contribute materials to the composting effort, he said

Each 80-pound bag, he said, costs $10. Workers will be available to help county residents purchasing the product load it into their vehicles.

Workers seek to contain odors from the waste by keeping it covered with wood chips, Clements said. So far,, there have been no complaints, he added.

“This is a pilot project right now, but we would like to continue it and hope to see it grow,” Clements said. He pointed out there are plans to acquire additional scraps and yard waste that could be added to the waste stream, with the goal being to have the proceeds from the sale of the compost pay for all of the overhead to run the program.

“If it can sustain itself, then I think this will be very worthwhile,” Clements said.

Earlier this month, he said, four county jail inmates who have been awarded trustee status for good behavior helped fill more than 700 bags with screened compost. The nylon bags were donated by Brewery Ommegang and Butternuts Beer and Ale, Clements said.

He said now is an opportune time to begin selling the screened compost because many gardeners want to mulch their flower beds.

The material has been tested by Cornell University, and the data from that testing will be made available to those interesting in acquiring the compost. Clements said it was rated as having a relatively low salt content, which he said is significant given that a portion of it came from food scraps.

“This is a program that can help us lower our waste stream by providing a usable product that is environmentally friendly,” he said.

County Rep. Linda Rowinski, D-Oneonta, the chairwoman of the Committee on Solid Waste and Environmental Concerns, said the program has the potential to become increasingly beneficial, especially since the county is moving to divorce itself from the regional trash authority known as MOSA.

“We’ve started out small, to see what we can do with composting the material from the Manor and the jail,” she said. “This is a small but good investment for the county, and hopefully it will expand.” She said Clements keeps her committee informed regularly on the progress with the project.

To arrange a purchase of the compost, contact Clements at his conservation district office at 547-8337, Ext. 4.