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Decatur environmental board working to launch composting pilot program

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Decatur environmental board working to launch composting pilot program

Decatur City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur Environmental Sustainability Board is working toward starting a composting pilot program in the city. The city has applied for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s waste recovery and diversion grant program.

The grant program has $2 million to distribute to municipalities to support any initiative that meets the goal of either waste reduction or diversion, board member David Malkin said at the Sept. 30 ESB meeting.

The city’s waste characterization identified that 39% of the city’s trash could be diverted through a composting program, Decatur Energy and Sustainability Manager David Nifong said.

The grant could support things like recycling, how to divert hard to recycle materials, or in Decatur’s case, it could support a composting initiative.

“The intent is that the program would run about…two years,” Malkin said. “[There] would be a six month initial assessment period where you do lots of data collection, procuring a dedicated vehicle to support the program, because the city intends to self-haul the compost rather than contracting with a third party to collect it.”

He added that the city would have to send out a request for proposals to find a facility to process the compost and would have to engage community interest.

The pilot program would last one year and would target one neighborhood, one trash collection route.

“That’s mainly for simplicity’s sake so that the participants are setting out their compost the same day as they’re setting up their household trash, and it would also limit the impact to the sanitation crews,” Malkin said.

The compost would be collected weekly. The board would like to see household organic materials and yard waste collected through the program. In terms of compostable plastics, the ability of the city to collect that as part of the compost pilot program would depend on the processor’s preferences.

“For the purpose of this pilot program, we want to establish proof of concept for curbside service because I think, with all sanitation services, the easier that we can make it on our residents to participate and participate well…that would do the most for our sanitation goals,” Nifong said.

Malkin added that the city deciding on whether to move forward with the composting pilot program is not contingent upon receiving the EPD grant. The program dates back to the 2010 strategic plan and is an action item in the 2030 strategic plan.

In other business, hearings for Georgia Power’s rate case have begun and will continue throughout the rest of the year before the state Public Service Commission.

Georgia Power plans to raise electricity rates by 12% and the increase must be approved by the PSC. The board will allow concerned Georgians to spake for up to three minutes during the first hour of each hearing, according to the Georgia Recorder.

The hearings will resume in November, and the final hearing is scheduled for Dec. 15. The PSC’s rule says no public comments will be taken during administrative sessions. The PSC is set to vote on Dec. 20 on Georgia Power’s plan to add $16.20 to the average residential customer’s bill, which is about $200 annually, over the next three years. In 2023, residents would see a $14.32 hike, the Georgia Recorder reported.

The city of Decatur, along with the city of Savannah, Athens-Clarke County, and DeKalb County formed a coalition to intervene in Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan. The coalition is also intervening in the rate case.

“They have moved to a two track process where they’re hearing testimony about the net metering issue separately than the other issues, so that gives us a little bit more time to pull together an expert witness and file testimony for that part of the case,” Nifong said. “We are advocating for some issues across both tracks.”

The coalition’s main priorities include the price of the community solar subscription program, access to data for municipal accounts and residents, and expanding net metering.

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