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Compost program is success

by Merrie Leininger

This spring’s wildfire reduction program reaped greater benefits than ever before.

The Douglas County office of Cooperative Extension organized the yard waste recycling program for the second spring and recycled more than 400 tons of yard waste, up from only 42 tons the spring before. Compost Your Combustibles is also held every fall.

The difference was the collection bins were left out for a month instead of just a weekend or two.

“We also had outstanding site coordinators who were very accommodating, especially at the Lake,” said project coordinator Steve Lewis of the extension office. “Our coordinators said, ‘Just keep bringing it in, we’ll put it somewhere.'”

Lewis boasts that fewer Douglas County fire permits were issued this spring than previous years.

“People opted to recycle their yard waste and cut down on air pollution, too,” he said.

The 33-cubic-yard bins were left at fire departments in TRE, Sheridan, Genoa, Jacks Valley and Johnson Lane in the Valley; Zephyr Cove, Roundhill, Glenbrook and Kingbury at the Lake.

A total of 205.4 tons was collected between May 7 and June 16 in the Valley and 198.75 tons were collected during the same period of time at the Lake.

n Amazed in TRE. Ronna Hubbard, who organized the project in TRE, said she was amazed that residents brought 314 cubic yards of material out.

“I was just amazed. We stopped advertising two days into it, so most of it was word of mouth,” she said. “We usually have fires every morning during burning season, and it really did cut down. People said they liked it because it was easier than standing around all day and burning it.”

Hubbard said she is still getting phone calls from people who want to get rid of yard waste.

“Next time, I would like to get the community more involved rather than just the fire department and let them do some organizing,” she said.

Lewis said extending the collection to a month was a lot more labor-intensive than expected. In addition, a plan to chip all the vegetation at the sites was scrapped, so the material had to be transported to Craig Witt’s Full Circle Composting by Douglas Disposal and South Tahoe Refuge without being chipped.

Another problem that caused more work for the organizers was allowing people at the Lake to keep their yard waste in bags.

Volunteers and inmate crews spent $3,000 in labor hours debagging all the material.

Youth groups from Shepherd of the Sierra, Evergreen Foundation and Teens With A Future spent a lot of time helping with that.

Lewis said the success of the program would not have been possible without their help and the help of Full Circle, East Fork Fire district, Tahoe-Douglas Fire District and cooperative extension.

The program will receive a $30,000 grant from the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection for processing and promotion for the next couple of years.

Lewis said the money will help program organizers figure out a better way to coordinate the growing amount of material.