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The Yard Waste Conundrum

Picture small stacks of untended yard waste moldering away in countless backyards across the County, producing smelly methane laden gas and spewing it into the atmosphere. Then picture that same yard waste deposited in the Cherry Island landfill, still moldering away and still producing smelly methane gas – but now where a network of pipes collects the gas and sells much of it to nearby Delmarva for $100,000 annually.

The truth is that all our homes continually have yard waste to contend with. We have the freedom to dispose of it individually, or collectively. Many “experts” and many vendors are offering suggestions for dealing with this situation, but few pause to also share the never changing science of the situation. Which isn’t really complicated.

All yard waste will eventually decompose into dust in accordance with life’s natural organic cycle. Otherwise the floors of our forests would be several feet deep with the debris from bushes and grasses, leaves and branches, and even dead trees that accumulate, year-after-year. We want our yards to be a bit more neat than the forest floor, so we continually remove the debris and seek a method of orderly disposal.

The entire yard waste disposal situation centers on the best way to collect the waste and deliver it to a central disposal site. Plus the need to aerate the stacked up waste weekly (preventing production of methane gas) or collecting the gas which will otherwise form.

Only Cherry Island has the pipes in place to collect the gas and a customer to buy it.

Incidentally, Cherry Island is not being overwhelmed by yard waste. Historically, yard waste has amounted to 90,000 cubic yards, raising the landfill height some 4 ˝ inches annually. Even this shrinks with passing years, as in nature’s life cycle with the forest floor.

So how should the yard waste be collected and where should it be deposited. Do we really need multiple companies serving each community, with big trucks passing each other, belching diesel exhaust while each picks up a few bundles and bags of yard waste – with what assurance of ecologically correct final disposal.

Various companies are now profitably engaged in collecting and disposing of yard waste. Any change dictated by government will affect their finances and thus should be imposed sensitively. Of course the convenience of, and the expense to homeowners, should also be included in the equation.

Dan Bockover

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