Greenhouse gas vs. compost threatens trash trucks

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Updated Apr 21, 2016

The mayor of Omaha, Neb. is hoping to end two separate trash pickups which she says are wasting $600,000 a year and squandering opportunities to generate more methane at the county landfill.

Those opposing Mayor Jean Stothert’s proposal for a single trash collection say using fewer trucks will cost drivers their jobs and bring an end to the city’s composting program, according to

If Mayor Jean Stothert’s proposal of a single trash pickup becomes policy, yard debris will go directly to the county landfill with other waste, instead of being picked up separately by another truck and then processed elsewhere into compost.

“By bringing it out here (to the county landfill), we can control the greenhouse gasses that are released because we’re required by permit to control those gasses,” Waste Management district manager Ken Mertl told

Methane gas collected at the Douglas County landfill is used to power generators that produce electricity. Stothert says that sending yard waste to the landfill, instead of the compost processing facility, will create more methane and thus more electricity.

Methane loss or not, Stothert’s critics contend that the city’s composting program, Oma-Gro, is not only beneficial to the environment, but also provides a direct benefit to the public. City compost generated by yard waste is sold in about 100 stores.

“I think it’s a very popular program amongst our citizens and composting is a good environmental practice,” said Omaha City Council member Pete Festersen.

Omaha is no stranger to trash pickup problems. Complaints about slow trash collection last year prompted Stothert’s administration to get Waste Management to temporarily take all the trash–including yard debris–to the county landfill until Waste Management could obtain more truck drivers according to

Citing ongoing public concerns with trash pickup, Stothert asked Waste Management to offer proposals for improvement. Options center around limiting the amount of waste that residents can leave at the curb and Waste Management’s acquisition of $30 million worth of compressed natural gas refuse trucks with automated, hydraulic trash can lifts. Orange County, Fla. has struggled in its transition to similar trucks since January.

A study will help determine the fate of the city’s current trash program. Results should be available by the end of the year. In the meantime, Stothert appears convinced that a single trash pickup is the best choice.

“It takes a lot less drivers, a lot less trucks, a lot less workforce,” she said.