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Kirkwood, Mo. (pop. 27,987) meets solid waste challenges.

When Missouri passed a comprehesive solid waste management law in 1990, cities and countries faced a dramatic challenge to control and reduce waste.

A strong example is being set by the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood (population 27,987), which has long been an area leader in recycling and environmental awareness. The city's recycling depository has operated for 25 years and boasts average daily usage of more than 1,000 persons.

Missouri's solid waste law has many important features that directly affect solid waste disposal by local government. Waste oil, major appliances, automobile tires and lead acid batteries were banned from landfill disposal in 1991. The Missouri law mandated a reduction of waste entering landfills by 40 percent over the next six years.

However, the most important short-term impact of the Missouri solid waste law was its ban on the disposal of yard waste in landfills in 1992. As a result, the Kirkwood City Council directed city employees to develop a solid waste plan that would foster recycling and meet all state goals, including the deletion of yard waste from landfill disposal. Implicit in the Council's charge was the need for cost effectiveness, continuation of existing sanitation services, and use of environmentally sound approaches

The staff researched effective plans throughout the country, evaluated local options and costs, obtained input from businesses and citizens and produced a solid waste plan entitled "50 percent by 2000." The strategy calls for a reduction in landfill disposal of 50 percent by the year 2000. The first year's goal of 15 percent reduction was to be achieved primarily through elimination of all yard waste entering, the waste stream. Past programs had already accomplished a 33 percent reduction in landfill usage in five years, including a 9 percent reduction in 1991. This goal was above the waste reduction the city had already achieved through its recycling efforts and composting programs. With the new plan approved by the council and citizens, the Public Works Department had a clear mandate.

The 50 percent by 2000 plan is simple in its purpose. Using the landfill volume consumed in 1991, the plan established eight goals and measuring points (see fig. 1).

Turning these goals into reality was the charge of the Public Works Department under a two-part program of short-and long-term approaches. The initial reduction program included:

[section] Promotion of yard waste reduction;

[section] City collection of yard waste for composing;

[section] Modernization and expansion of city recycling depository;

[section] Increasing city depository usage; and

[section] Increasing city depository markets.

The long-range reduction plan stipulates that, if the yearly goals are not satisfied within 3 percent, the Council will consider the following reduction plans: curb-side recycling; mandatory recycling, strictly enforced; restructuring of city sanitation rates to a volume-based, user-fee system; and dramatic increase in fee when a base volume is exceeded.

The yard waste recycling plan adopted by the council called for the city to encourage home composting and "Don't Bag It" grass maintenance, while offering a variety of yard waste collection services with a volume-based user fee.

The initial January 1, 1991 landfill prohibitions were easily incorporated into Kirkwood's solid waste disposal plan. Major appliances and tires were picked up by the sanitation division under the existing fee-based "special pick-up" program. This program allowed residents to call the city for curb-side pickup of large items. Local businesses accepted the items collected by the city. Lead acid batteries and waste oil continued to be accepted by retail outlets as a service to their customers.

The anticipated and already accomplished waste reduction allowed the sanitation division to reduce its residential refuse collection routes from four to three. Two yard waste pick-up routes were established for the new yard waste programs.

In December of 1991, the city and local merchants began selling special 30-gallon kraft paper yard waste bags at $1.25 each. This price included the cost of the bag ($0.30) and the cost of collection and disposal by the city. In February, an optional yard waste sticker was introduced by the city to allow residents to use generic 30-gallon yard waste bags with the $1.00 sticker attached for collection and disposal costs. The city estimates that 100,000 of these bags and stickers will be sold to offset the estimated annual collection and disposal cost.

The yard waste bags may be filled with leaves, grass clippings, flowers, garden residue and small limbs. Bags made from recycled paper were chosen over the plastic, biodegradable "cornstarch" bag. Past usage of plastic bags indicated a long decomposition time. Also, private composting sites were not accepting plastic bags.

The street division will continue to offer its leaf vacuum service this fall. This service is available to residents on a call-in basis at $15 per 30 minutes of vacuuming. The city will also continue to coordinate private contractor pick-up of bundled limbs for $20 per 15 minutes of loading.

Meeting waste reduction goals requires citizen knowledge, understanding and acceptance. A comprehensive publicity plan was necessary. Many news articles were generated on the topic through public hearings, council discussions, and news releases. Kirkwood's utility bills carried information on the new route schedules and yard waste programs. Postcards sent to residents advised them of their collection days and yard waste options. Advertisements in local newspapers offered further information.

To address the yard waste recycling plan, the City Council established the Citizen Volunteer Composting Advisory Corps, whose mission is to promote a yard management and home composting program for recycling yard waste. Their duties include: Promotion and publicity for Kirkwood's composting program to encourage maximum community participation; training volunteers to be area information sources; and establishing and advertising a home demonstration program.

The Corps has held two well-attended public information meetings, established a composting demonstration site at the city's farmer's market, initiated a home demonstration program, and staffed an information booth at city functions.

The home composting demonstration site is a cooperative country-wide educational effort sponsored by the Missouri Botanical Garden. A kiosk in the center of a landscaped area displays general yard waste/composting information surrounded by ten composting methods with detailed information.

With Kirkwood's solid waste reduction program in full swing, the city is expecting to meet its first solid waste reduction goal in January, 1993 and maintain its leadership role on environmental issues.
COPYRIGHT 1992 National League of Cities
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Yost, Kenneth D.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jun 22, 1992
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