The Montezuma County Landfill is expanding its composting program and has received a $127,500 grant for a new screener from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The trommel screen produces the composted soil product created from green yard waste and biosolids, which is sold to the public for use in flower gardens and lawns.
“It’s a closed-loop system. We bring in debris, then we compost it and sell it back to the local economy,” said landfill manager Mel Jarmon.
The landfill contributed a $42,000 match to purchase the $170,000 portable trommel, a screen sieve to filter solids.
Jarmon said the landfill plans to expand its composting system to include collecting and processing food waste in the community.
Officials plan to develop an 11-acre composting facility to streamline and improve operations. The new facility on the west side of the landfill would produce two types of composted soil for sale, Jarmon said.
The compost made from green trimmings and biosolid waste will still be available. The biosolid sludge is obtained from the Cortez Sanitation District plant. After the composting process decomposes the material, it becomes safe for use on flower gardens, trees and lawns, but is not recommended for vegetable gardens. The compost is popular with marijuana growers.
By fall 2021, pending proper permits, the compost from green debris and food waste will become available for use in vegetable gardens. Landfill officials will work with school districts, restaurants, grocery stores and the Ute Mountain Casino to collect the food waste.
The composting process is a science that breaks down material and bacteria naturally through heat and microorganisms.
Water is added to rows of debris that is occasionally turned until it reaches 130 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 consecutive days, then it goes into a curing stage that takes months.
“The mixture, timing and temperature has to be right,” Jarmon said. “We temperature check every day at 1-foot and 3-foot depth.”
The new facility will be divided into sections to process and sell two compost commodities. The composting program and the new facility are regulated under a permit with CDPHE.
Demand for compost has been strong, Jarmon said.
“We sell out every year, and it has grown since we started seven years ago,” he said.
To build up their green-waste inventory, the landfill offers free green waste drop-off for October.
The composting program is part of the recycling and diversion goals of the county landfill and state.
“Instead of throwing food and green trimmings away, we make the compost and save space in the landfill,” said landfill operator Mike Jenkins.
The grant for the new screener came from CDPHE Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity program.
CDPHE says Colorado has made strides in diverting trash from landfills by reducing, reusing and recycling waste, but there is room for improvement.
According to CDPHE, in 2007 the state diverted about 7% of the nearly 10 million tons of household and commercial trash generated that year.
In 2018, 17% of the 7 million tons of waste was diverted from landfills. Colorado lags behind the national average of 35% for waste diversion.
The RREO grant program was initiated to provide funding for entities to expand recycling and help Colorado surpass the national average, a CDPHE news release said.
“We are pleased to recognize the Montezuma County landfill for its dedication and commitment to reducing the amount of waste sent to Colorado landfills,” said RREO grant program administrator at CDPHE. “The grants incentivise partnerships that are a win-win for Colorado’s economy and environment.”