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Turning waste into product

Rogue Disposal's composting project puts yard debris to use

WHITE CITY - The percentage of recycled waste products passing through Rogue Disposal's hands is destined to increase.

The local waste disposal company stepped up its composting activity Wednesday morning when it opened a new yard debris drop-off center at 8001 Table Rock Road.

"We've been working five years on diverting yard waste and green waste out of the general solid waste stream into a compost facility where it can be reused," Rogue Disposal operations manager Don Cordell said Wednesday.

The Department of Environmental Quality sets goals based on proximity to markets for recycled material. The nearest market to Medford is Eugene. Rogue Waste Systems, parent of Rogue Disposal, reported a 36 percent recycling figure in 2000. 2005 DEQ has Jackson County pegged for 40 percent, Josephine County 15 and Lane County 45.

A pilot program began in 1998 at the Dry Creek landfill site, capable of handling 5,000 tons per year. Start-up for the project cost well over $1 million. The new 300-acre site adjacent to the landfill can handle 12,000 to 20,000 tons annually.

"For the first 10 years, we'll use five of the 300 acres, because we're trying to make sure it impacts no one," Cordell said.

The yard waste will be ground up and piled in rows about 200 feet long, 30 feet wide and 8 feet high. They will be left there for 12 to 18 months, then cured for two to six months.

Sometime next spring, Rogue Disposal hopes to begin selling compost at a yet-to-be determined price.

"We're probably going to retail it ourself to start," Cordell said. "How much flow will determine whether we begin to wholesale. Selling compost doesn't pay the freight for the project," Cordell said. "But we hope to sell 2,000 to 3,000 yards per year."

Most customers are eligible for curbside yard debris collection service, using 95-gallon roll carts every two weeks. Grass clippings, leaves, weeds, plant prunings, brush and woody material up to 2 inches in diameter and 36 inches long are accepted. Rogue Disposal empties the cans every other week for $3.50 per month on top of its regular pickup fees.

The cost for dropping off the waste is $5 per cubic yard, with a $5 minimum.

BioMass One also charges a $5 minimum for drop-off waste, but takes 2 x 4s, wood furniture and other large pieces of wood. BioMass doesn't take grass trimmings and weeds.

"We're certainly not interested in going into competition with BioMass," Cordell said.

Although the company has converted most of its routes to automatic pickup, the recycling effort has enabled the company to avoid layoffs. Cordell said Rogue Disposal kept its costs down by buying a used grinder from a Weyerhaeuser mill in Longview, Wash., and a used front-end loader.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

Turning waste into product