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[as seen in the Peoria Journal Star - Nov. 28, 2001]

Peoria decision could alter
future of landfills

By ELAINE HOPKINS

PEORIA - The Peoria County Board's decision on whether to allow yard waste into the municipal landfill could affect the future of landfills everywhere, an environmental activist said Tuesday.

If the board approves the proposal, it will be the first breakthrough on the ban in Illinois, Tom Edwards told the board's health and environmental issues committee. National environmental groups are now watching to see what will happen in Peoria, he said.

City of Peoria officials have proposed a five-year pilot project to allow yard waste to be mixed with other trash, hoping to save money on hauling costs and make money on tipping fees. Illinois and other states banned the mixture a decade ago to save landfill space.

The pilot project, which will require legislation from the General Assembly, would allow the landfill to be studied to see whether the yard waste actually adds volume.

Consulting engineer Pat Sloan believes the yard waste will decompose and, therefore, add no volume while it speeds up the production of methane, which can be turned into electricity.

The measure passed the City/County Landfill Committee and the Peoria City Council but stalled recently at the County Board. The environmental committee also has recommended it, but heard additional discussion on Tuesday.

Paul Rosenbohm of LHF Compost Inc. operates a dairy and farms 800 acres near Greater Peoria Regional Airport. He has been accepting yard waste from haulers for composting, and is seeking a state permit to sell the composted soil.

The compost has enriched his farm fields, he said, and enabled him to cut back on fertilizer purchases. He is paid $7.70 per cubic yard by haulers to take the yard waste, he said, less than the $9 the landfill will charge when rates rise on Dec. 1.

The pilot project likely would end his venture, he told the Peoria City/County Landfill Committee, which also met Tuesday and discussed the proposal.

"If he sells it, we get the sales tax and we've encouraged a green business. But this (methane production) is a green business, too," said Cheryl Budzinski, who chairs the environmental committee and also is a member of the landfill committee.

Relying on figures from Sloan, Budzinski said the county expects to receive $13,000 per year in additional tipping fees, and the landfill committee will receive $16,000 more each year to be used for landfill closure. The measure also might cut back on air pollution from leaf burning and trucking, she said.

Dave Schaab of Waste Management said elimination of dual routes to pick up yard waste and trash may allow up to a 10 percent cutback for truck routes.

That might translate into substantial savings for the city's garbage hauling contract, city officials have said.

Edwards said that compost is a resource that should not be wasted in a landfill.

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