18 Football Fields of Stinky Stuff Mean Compost for SOCRRA Communities
(Sherry A. Wells, Nov. 17, 2022)
Rochester Hills, MI – Did you know that since 1995, Michigan has banned yard waste from going into landfills?
Fall leaf pickups are already starting. Here’s why you need to know what I learned.
I toured the SOCRRA Compost site in Rochester Hills (1741 School Road). Imagine the size of 18 football fields with mounds in rows baking in the sun.
The yard wastes from SOCRRA’s Southeast Oakland’s 12 communities are brought here by the various contracted companies. RRRASOC has a similar site for composting yard wastes from its 9 communities on the Southwest area of Oakland County. Their websites are: www.socrra.org and www.rrrasoc.org
The first impression is to the nose. It smelled. And not all of it was Mother Nature cooking.
Contamination is one reason why we must make certain no litter (or dog poop!) gets mixed in. In addition to grass, leaves and twigs, sod and soil, one may toss uncooked food waste such as peelings (but no egg shells or coffee grounds—those can go directly to your garden plants that like them).
The NO-NO list:
~litter, dog poop or cat litter, plastic anything
~fats, bread or dairy
~cellulose or packing material
~logs, stumps, dirt or root balls
~rocks, stones or bricks
~trash like car parts or garden hoses (no kidding!)
Our guide, Bob, told us that Nebraska also bans yard waste from landfills. Nebraska promotes compost for “your garden, flower beds, as a top dressing to rejuvenate your lawn, and more.” It saves money otherwise spent on pesticides and fertilizers while naturally improving the fertility of the soil. Compost in a yard increases water infiltration, rather than water pooling atop thick grass and running off.
It takes a full year to break down the yard waste into usable compost. Each load is handled five times. The Beast is the first step. The yard waste is dumped onto a conveyor and fed into one of two grinders that breaks it down into a consistent texture.
Onsite personnel includes at least two mechanics to keep them working, and too often to remove some items in the No-No list and repair the damage done by them. The Beast is currently diesel-fueled but SOCRRA has been looking into electric machines.
The non-natural waste is winnowed out and truly natural material is piled into windrows. The result is aged and flipped while it ferments. The mounds are turned over to expose the yard waste to oxygen, microbes and weather. The final process is the Green Machine which screens out what should not be in the compost.
Once the compost is ready, it’s sent back out into the communities for residents to use. SOCRRA consists of twelve member municipalities with a total population of approximately 283,000 and covers an area of 75 square miles. Member cities are Berkley, Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Clawson, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak and Troy.
The SOCRRA website has a report that shows a compost sample to be quite clean of film and hard plastics, glass and metal fragments and sharps. The system is doing its job in spite of too much carelessness in the communities. So please make sure there is nothing other than Nature’s products in the bins, bags and along the curb.
Learn more about compost and other recycling efforts at https://www.socrra.org/.