menu 1
Zero Waste
End Landfilling
Producer Responsibility
End Subsidies
Media Center
Interest Groups
Kids Recycle!
GRRN Media Center
Donate Now

Coalition to Oppose Attacks on Recycling In America

January 08, 2002
Contact: Jim McNelly

Composting Expert Challenges Effort By Waste Management Inc. To Send Yard Trimmings To Landfill

ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Jim McNelly, founder of the U.S. Composting Council and Chair of its Environmental Policy Committee, today charged that Waste Management Inc.'s claims in support of eliminating yard waste disposal bans have "virtually no scientific basis."

"Anyone who knows the slightest thing about the process of decomposition," said Council spokesperson Jim McNelly, "would have to conclude that either the trash hauler has only remedial knowledge about this subject or has no compunction trying to hoodwink the public."

McNelly disputed two key claims Waste Management Inc:

FIRST CLAIM: Diverting yard trimmings back to the landfill will produce clean energy.

FACT. Methane from yard trimmings will not produce significant amounts of energy
energy because most landfill gases will be released before the collection and electricity generating systems are even installed.

"What Waste Management is attempting to hide from the people of Peoria," McNelly said, "is the fact that the piping systems used to capture a part of the toxic brew of gases emitted by landfills - one of which is methane - do not even get installed due to logistical constraints until after almost all of the methane has already been released."

"Grass clippings, which comprise the majority of yard trimmings, decompose in months, while gas collection systems do not get installed in most cases for at least five years," McNelly pointed out. "Moreover, landfill gas is often contaminated with toxic compounds that threaten public health and is in no way 'clean.'"

SECOND CLAIM: Diverting yard trimmings back to the landfill will not take up more room at the site because of it will decompose.

FACT. Even after yard trimmings decompose in a landfill, more than three-fourths of its original densified volume will remain.

"As to that part of the yard material that is wetted and does decompose, the fact that the trimmings will degrade does not mean that they disappear," McNelly said. "Most of the volume reduction that does occur is due to the only a percentage, rarely over 40% of the volatile fraction of the yard material, while most of the weight reduction is simply from moisture escaping. The non-liquid part does not disappear, he said, but is biologically transformed into another substance that, if conducted with uncontaminated yard trimmings, is basically compost. It is never totally lost. No form of natural decomposition reduces that much of the organic material."

McNelly was quick to add that when decomposition is done in a source-separated compost operation rather than in a landfill, the large residual volume then becomes something positive, because compost that has not been contaminated with toxic-laden solid waste can be converted into a marketable horticulture planter mix or returned to the soil to restore fertility to our crop and forest land.

The U.S. Composting Council ( is a member of the Coalition to Oppose Attacks on Recycling in America, an alliance of 12 national, regional and local groups organized by the Grassroots Recycling Network (

  Contact Us © GrassRoots Recycling Network ©
web by Greenman Design