King County is considering ways to increase both the supply of and demand for compost to help divert organic material from the landfill. File photo

King County is considering ways to increase both the supply of and demand for compost to help divert organic material from the landfill. File photo

King County wants to boost composting market

In 2018, around one-third of material sent to regional landfill could have been composted.

King County is considering ways to increase both the supply of and demand for compost to help divert organic material from the landfill.

As organic material is broken down, it releases methane gas — a greenhouse gas that’s more than 10 times more warming than carbon dioxide. It can also be processed and used as a biofuel if properly collected. In 2018, around one-third of all material that was sent to the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill near Maple Valley was organics that could have been composted.

King County commissioned a report from the Cascadia Consulting Group that explores ways to increase supply and demand for composting and organics recycling. The report said demand for compost generally matches what’s available, but in order to recycle even more material, producers would need incentives to make more.

In King and Snohomish counties, the report found private processing facilities were permitted to develop 553,000 tons of compost annually. Last year there were 470,000 tons processed, meaning the counties are at 85% capacity. Plastics pollution is also common in the collection stream, which degrades the quality of the final product.

The report noted three main issues the county should consider, including expanding local compost markets while reducing contamination and expanding organic material processing. When processed into compost, the organic materials improve soil health.

Recycling can also capture methane gas. Compost mixed with wood chips can be placed over old sections of landfill, which degrades the gas coming from the waste below. The Cedar Hills landfill currently contracts with Bio Energy to capture and produce methane gas, which is then processed and sold on the market.

Agriculture markets could provide a place to expand demand. In Washington state, less than 5% of total compost ends up at farms, and 81% of farmers hadn’t previously used compost made from food scraps and yard trimmings. The report found the cost of transporting compost to Eastern Washington made it less competitive than using it on King County farmlands.

In order to increase local markets, the county could provide support with transportation and market costs, equipment, delivery and reducing contamination. It could also pay special attention to farmers from immigrant and refugee communities. These could be implemented in a pilot program on county-owned farmland. The current budget has $30,000 set aside to cover costs associated with this program.

King County’s wastewater treatment division is already producing compost on its own, turning human sewage into a product called Loop. The purified product is reduced down into a mush with the consistency of cake before being shipped out to fertilize commercial and forest plots across the state.

King County is considering ways to increase both the supply of and demand for compost to help divert organic material from the landfill. File photo

King County is considering ways to increase both the supply of and demand for compost to help divert organic material from the landfill. File photo

More in News

State officials remind public Tobacco and Vapor 21 begins Jan. 1

The Washington State Department of Health is reminding the public that Engrossed… Continue reading

Flying Fish: Lake Sammamish kokanee move to Orcas Island

It’s part of a program to preserve the unique freshwater salmon species.

King County Metro has been working to develop a proposal for future transit options to better connect Renton, Kent, Auburn and surrounding areas; and identifying potential sites for a new bus base, which will house and maintain 250 all-electric buses by 2030. COURTESY PHOTO, King County Metro
Better transit service and a new bus base

Residents invited to have a say on Metro’s upcoming investments in South King County

Customers asked to recycle plastic bags, wrap separately from curbside recycling materials

Changes are coming next year to how materials are collected for recycling… Continue reading

KCLS boycotts Macmillan Publishers’ eBook embargo

The King County Library System (KCLS) will no longer purchase newly-released eBooks… Continue reading

Kent man who made multiple online threats sentenced to 5 years in prison

Defendant with severe mental illness threatened media figures, the Jewish community and members of the Trump family

Malena Gaces, left, and other members of Washington CAN protest unfair move-out charges and alleged discriminatory behavior outside Kitts Corner Apartments in Federal Way in 2018. Sound Publishing file photo
King County could increase tenant protections

The council is considering ordinances designed to help renters.

Learn about funding opportunities to create parks, open spaces at King County workshop

Learn about funding opportunities to create parks, open spaces in the community at King County workshop

Most Read