Curbside compost collection could be available to interested White Salmon residents as early as next month under an agreement being negotiated between the City of White Salmon and a composting service currently located in The Dalles.
Curbside collection of compostable materials, including grass clippings, leaves, and brush, would be done on a two-month trial basis this fall by Dirt Hugger, a 3-year-old company that specializes in composting, according to its principals, Tyler Miller and Pierce Louis.
Local residents would subscribe to the service voluntarily through Dirt Hugger and pay a fee of $10 every other week to have their compostable materials picked up. Residents who opt in to the program would have to provide their own can. If the program proves successful, Dirt Hugger and the city could enter into a longer-term deal that would call for compost collection in every season but winter.
On Sept. 18, Miller and Louis presented the results of a survey it conducted in August. Surveys were mailed with city utility bills to about 1,700 customers. Dirt Hugger received responses from 200 customers; 56 percent of them said they want a curbside compost collection service, and 43 percent prefer an every-other-week pick-up schedule. Less than half of respondents -- 45 percent -- said they would be willing to pay for the service (22 percent said they would be willing to pay $5 per month).
“Based on these survey results, we believe there is sufficient interest to test a pilot program for curbside composting for interested residents and businesses in White Salmon,” Dirt Hugger noted in its report to the City Council.
City Councilors Allan Wolf, Mark Peppel, Jason Sabourin, and Bill Werst reached a consensus to move forward with putting together an agreement with Dirt Hugger to offer the service on a trial basis. Mayor David Poucher said the council could act on the agreement as early as its first meeting in October.
The pilot program would operate Oct. 1 through Nov. 30, at a cost to subscribers of $10 per can per pick-up.
“We realize this program cost is higher than desired and would ultimately like to bring the cost down to the $5-to-$7.50 per month range,” Dirt Hugger noted. “However, in order to make that happen, organics recycling would need to be integrated with a garbage/recycling service. One model would be to alternate recycling and organics recycling every other week with garbage collection each week.”
Dirt Hugger said it is using the survey data to “create a program that will offer a service to those who truly desire a solution. This is not the end solution, but a start to get a program going. At the end of the pilot, we propose another survey to determine results and collect data for a program going forward.”
According to the results of last month’s survey, 33 percent of city residents compost yard debris in their backyards, 29 percent put it in their garbage cans, 17 percent drop it off at a transfer station, and 21 percent dispose of it in other ways.
Dirt Hugger processes the material it collects into organic compost, which it then sells to the public. According to city officials, the program would operate at no cost to the city.