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[as seen in the Peoria Journal Star - Dec. 19, 2001]

Peoria committee adopts landfill plan
Official says mixing grass clippings with trash could save money

PEORIA, IL - Stung by publicity from national environmental groups opposing its pilot project to mix grass clippings with municipal trash, the Peoria City/County Landfill Committee on Tuesday listened to a defense of the plan and then adopted a statement of support.

Environmentalists have attacked the proposal, saying it could open the door to other attempts to scale back recycling. Twenty-one states including Illinois ban yard waste from municipal landfills, according to a statement from the groups on the Web site of the Grass Roots Recycling Network at www.grrn.org.

Waste Management of Illinois, the landfill's operator, did not originate this plan, manager Steve Harenberg said. The company issued a news release on Tuesday saying the environmental groups were "in error" in blaming Waste Management for the idea, but the company supports the project.

The committee then adopted the company's statement with a few minor changes to clarify the language.

"It was really the city asking us," Harenberg said. "Waste Management is not pushing this. It has nothing to do with us."

He added, "We need to try it to see if it will work."

Steve Van Winkle, Peoria public works director, said the plan will save the city about $250,000 yearly in hauling costs, because separate trucks must now be sent to pick up the two waste streams. Some of those trips can be eliminated by consolidating the waste.

When added fees and taxes on the yard waste are included, the city and county could gain as much as $1 million a year, according to Cindy Krider, who handles landfill issues in Van Winkle's office.

The extra money could be used to promote other recycling, she said.

Afterward, Van Winkle said citizens still would be required to segregate clippings from trash, so they would not have to change procedures if the 5-year pilot project fails. Proponents hope the grass clippings will speed decomposition of the landfill and turn into methane gas, so that the volume in the landfill does not increase.

Clippings and leaves were banned a decade ago to save landfill space, before methane from landfills was widely used to generate electricity.

Opponents of the plan have argued that landscape waste is a resource that should be composted instead of discarded in landfills.

The Peoria City Council has approved the pilot project, but it has stalled at the County Board level. A change in Illinois law would be required for the project to take place.

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