City of Grand Rapids moves forward with plans for composting operation

Published on February 15, 2019

A photograph of a person holding composted biosolids in their hands

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The City of Grand Rapids is bolstering its commitment to sustainability by developing a registered composting facility at its yard waste drop-off site. The City Commission this week approved an agreement with a third-party operator for the composting facility, which will be the only one in operation in the Grand Rapids area.

Under the agreement, WeCare Denali will provide compost operations and management services at the drop-off site at 2001 Butterworth St. SW. Operations are expected to start this spring. 

The drop-off site will continue to accept only yard waste but will compost material onsite instead of having it transported it to another registered facility. Over the next six months, the City will evaluate curbside organics collection from residential and commercial customers.

“We are committed to improving the sustainability of our community, and this composting facility helps us do that,” Public Works Director James Hurt said. “We know that roughly 40 percent of all the municipal solid waste generated in Michigan is organics and can be composted. Having a City-owned composting facility allows us to divert some material away from the waste to energy facility or landfill and to a better use that invests in our agricultural future.”

If 10 percent of the material was diverted from the waste stream, the City could realize a potential savings in waste-to-energy tipping fees. 

“This material is essential in making high-quality compost that can be used to support local farming and residential soils instead of being burned or buried,” Hurt said. “Composting also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide and methane that are the result of burying or burning municipal waste.”

The City has considered a composting operation at the 2001 Butterworth Ave. SW site since its purchase in 1992. The 76-acre property houses the City’s yard waste collection and storage, disposal of utility dig up material, tree debris as part of the forestry division’s removal program and wood chips, a tree grove and a fire training facility.

The City currently contracts with a private company to grind and haul yard waste material – brush, leaves, logs – to a registered compost facility 20 miles from Grand Rapids. With a 40 percent increase in yard waste material at the Butterworth site over the past four years, transitioning from a transfer station to a composting facility makes sense, James said.

“This turns an asset into something even more beneficial for our community,” Hurt said.

The contract calls for WeCare Denali to provide up to 1,000 yards of free composted material to residents and up to 1,000 yards for City operations. Composted material can be used in yards and gardens. Details of this service are being discussed. Once finalized, the City plans to update residents on how they can access the free compost.

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