Louisville Eyes Renewed Plastic Bag Ban for Yard Waste

Louisville Eyes Renewed Plastic Bag Ban for Yard Waste

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, October 14, 2012 (ENS) - Autumn is here in Jefferson County, Kentucky, and trees are dropping tons of colorful leaves on streets, lanes and yards. Home to the 600,000 residents of the state's largest city, Louisville, the county is changing its solid waste management approach from reliance on landfilling to resource recovery.

The Jefferson County/Louisville Solid Waste Board is proposing a new five-year solid waste management plan that would forbid the disposal of yard waste in plastic bags.

Under the new approach, embodied in the county's proposed 2013-2017 solid waste management plan, most solid waste will be recycled, composted, or used as fuel.

Louisville solid waste officials said in August that much of the yard waste dumped at the Outer Loop Landfill is contained in plastic bags in spite of a 1984 ordinance that banned dumping yard waste in plastic bags.

The new plan re-introduces an ordinance to ban plastics bags in yard waste collection to improve the quantity and quality of compost made from the discarded yard waste that is supposed to be used as a soil amendment.

The proposed plan also would allow residents to place waste food at the curb for composting and would set limits on how much trash can be discarded and charge additional fees to pick up over-limit trash.

The highlight of the 2013-2017 solid waste management plan is an initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies to bring innovation and breakthrough ideas to Louisville. The grant has allowed Metro Government to hire a full time "Innovation Delivery Team" to work on problem solving and forward thinking.

This team already has reached out and brought together key cities from across the country that have high recycling rates with local stakeholders to develop a "Recycling Charter."

The Charter has set ambitious short and long term goals to increase the recycling rate 50 percent in three years and to 90 percent in 30 years. The goal of Bloomberg Philanthropies is that the programs adopted through the grant will become a model for other cities across the country.

Sarah Lynn Cunningham, a member of the 11-person Solid Waste Advisory Committee, has concerns about the proposed plan.

In an August memo to the Metro Louisville Solid Waste Board Cunningham writes, "It has come to my attention that a significant portion of the yard waste disposed at the Outer Loop landfill not being composted into and used as a soil amendment, but is instead being used as daily cover by the landfill.

Cunningham points out that when yard waste is enclosed in plastic bags "the material ends up in the landfill, just as it did before we banned it from the landfill" although "the public has been led to believe that it's being composted into a soil amendment."

"It fuels the long rumored myth that recycling programs are bogus, e.g., that recyclables aren't really being recycling, but dumped into the landfill," writes Cunningham.

"If I understand the thinking behind this never publically communicated decision correctly, it was in response to the problem of plastic garbage bags," she writes.

"I will propose that the board ban those plastic bags, and require the public to use paper bags, other containers and/or backyard composting. I will also propose free workshops around the community for showing the public how to compost in their backyards," Cunningham writes.

Cunningham says the way the yard waste plastic bag ban is presented to the public must emphasize what people value.

"We need to say 'the city is spending a lot of extra tax dollars from the use of plastic yard waste bags. So in order to save the taxpayers 'X' number of dollars per year, we're going to take this initiative," Cunningham told the local NPR station in an interview earlier this month.

Solid Waste Board Chairwoman Joyce St. Clair says the Board will make its final decision on the new solid waste management plan October 30.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.

Cover Photo: Louisville, KY. Hills south of Iroquois Park #2. Attribution: Censusdata at en.wikipedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.