City Compost Program Runs in the Red

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Despite increasing the rates for compost and mulch, the city’s composting program continues to run in the red.

Bobby Broadaway, the management analyst for Raleigh’s Solid Waste Services Department, said the total revenue for the composting program is about $440,000. The total budget hovers at about $1.4 million.

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The composting program makes its money by charging tipping fees for residents and landscapers who dump yard waste, like tree limbs and dead plants, and untreated wood pallets. The city turns the yard waste into mulch, compost and wood chips, which it then sells back to the public.

Broadaway said that the last fee increase was in 2006. On June 6, the council approved a $10 increase in the purchase price of the mulch and compost. The fees for a truckload of 2.5 yards of compost and mulch is now $30 and $25, respectively. The increase will bring in about $100,000, but the program will continue to run at deficit.

“Revenue sales have been really steady the last few years,” said Broadaway, crediting the low prices. Even with the price increase, the city’s prices are still below market rate.

Photo by Ariella Monti.

Broadaway said private businesses often buy the city’s compost and mulch and then resell it to the public at higher rates, sometimes mixing it with their own products.

Tipping fees for residents or businesses who bring their waste to the facility have not changed.

The Solid Waste Services department is in its first year running as an enterprise fund, which means it runs on its own budget like public utilities or the parking program. Money generated within those departments stay within the department. Solid Waste Services is beginning a five-year transition to full cost recovery. Until then, it will continue to be subsidized by the city’s general fund.

Bianca Howard, the community education specialist for Solid Waste Services, said it will now be easier to look at all of the programs that the department offers and track its costs.

Overall, councilors approved a $1 increase to Solid Waste Services fees for garbage and yard waste pickup. The increase will generate about $1.4 million for the department.

One thought on “City Compost Program Runs in the Red

  1. I never understood the tipping fee for residents. I already pay for curbside yard waste pickup, so why do I have to pay extra if I’m delivering the waste directly to them? Perhaps there would be more demand for their processed mulch if people were making combined trips to drop off yard waste and then pick up mulch while they are at it?

    I have seen houses in my neighborhood that literally have up to 10 trash cans filled with yard waste for pickup. Wouldn’t some city savings be found if people were encouraged to transport their own waste rather than spend time squeezing as many branches as possible into a trash can, requiring longer pickup runs?