By Alex Bridges
New Market may clarify rules over its popular leaf and grass composting service.
The Town Council Public Works Committee on Monday heard recommendations from staff concerning seasonal yard waste collection.
The town offers grass and leaf pickup from April 1 to the end of November each year. Town workers collect bagged grass, leaves and other organic yard debris and take the material to the public works facility. There the workers empty the bags and remove the organic material for composting rather than let the waste go to the landfill.
In calendar year 2012, New Market removed 2,075 bags of grass and leaves at an estimated weight of 31 tons of organic yard debris, according to information from the town. New Market workers spent approximately 246 hours to provide the service.
Town Manager Evan Vass said Wednesday staff looked for an endorsement from council members on ways to better communicate changes with New Market's collection service to residents.
"It was really overall housekeeping," Vass said. "We didn't have a good set of regulations so this not only helps those that utilize the service but it helps staff set some parameters and know where those parameters are as to what we will take, what we won't take."
Vass noted that staff hopes the use of the service would increase under the clearer guidelines.
The town spends approximately $7,000 in a fiscal year for labor and fuel to run the service, according to Vass. The town offers the service for free and covers the cost through the general fund.
Staff has recommended the Town Council add regulations to better communicate with residents who use the service. Town staff can manage the weight of most bags, but occasionally a bag is filled beyond a capacity for a member to handle in a safe manner, according to officials. Staff has recommended the town limit the weight of bags of grass and leaves to 50 pounds.
The number of bags collected per household varies. Staff has recommended the town limit the number of bags or equivalent units to 10 per household.
Staff also recommends the town limit material in bags to organic yard debris. Occasionally users of the service mix inorganic material with the yard debris.
Staff has asked council to consider requiring residents to use paper or other biodegradable bags for lawn debris. Plastic bags, used by most residents, present two challenges for staff. When filled to capacity the bag membrane can stretch and tear after exposure to the sun in the summer. Also, staff work more hours by having to handle plastic bags twice in the collection and debris-removal process. Paper or biodegradable bags would weigh less given the 30-gallon limit and require one handling by staff.
The staff recommendations also include restrictions on branches and limbs left for pickup. The town would require residents to gather sticks in bundles no heavier than 50 pounds that staff would collect along with other yard debris.
Brush removal associated with region-wide storm debris cleanup would be exempt from the new regulations.
If adopted these regulations would be effective for the 2013-14 season. New regulations would be phased in and become effective after a concerted effort to communicate the changes to those using the service.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org