"Landfill Now Compost Site" by Scott Wuerz - May 30, 2005
A once desolate wasteland is now the site of the St. Louis region's largest producer of mulch and compost material.
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St. Louis Composting, which is based in Maryland Heights, Mo., ships yard waste from all over the metropolitan area to former site of the BFI Modern Landfill on Frank Scott Parkway just north of Illinois 158.
"We handle enough in a year to cover a football field with a pile that's 150 feet high," owner Patrick Geraty said. "That's equivalent to a 15-story high building."
St. Louis Composting began to operate at the St. Clair County site in 2003, but it won't be in full-scale production until next month when a landscaping materials retail center is opened at the site.
Geraty said he used to operate a landscaping business, but he became more interested in composting as cities began to require citizens to sort their yard waste out from the rest of their trash. He closed the landscaping business in 1995 to do composting full-time.
St. Louis Composting now employs about 35 people. It currently covers 28 acres of the 115-acre Modern Landfill site. But Geraty plans to soon increase the amount of space used to 40 acres.
Chris Cahnovsky, regional manager for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's Bureau of Land, said he thinks the compost yard is a great use for the former landfill site.
"Landscape waste has been banned from landfills and composting is the best alternative," Cahnovsky said. "It not only diverts yard waste from landfills, it actually makes a useful product out of it."
"Using former landfills for composting is something that is becoming a more frequent situation," Cahnovsky said. "It's a good use for that land."
The BFI Modern Landfill stopped accepting waste in 1992. Plans were in the works in 1998 to build a power plant at the site which would have been fueled by methane gas created by four decades worth of rotting garbage below the dump's surface. But that idea fell through when the state wouldn't fund the project.
When the landfill opened more than four decades ago, it was in a rural area about half way between Belleville and Millstadt. But as the years have passed, the area between the towns has filled up with new subdivisions.
Geraty said the composting yard will be a much better neighbor than the dump was.
For more information about depositing yard waste at the site or buying compost mulch, call 1-800-top-soil or visit the company's Web site: www.stl-compost.com.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2626.
How Compost is made
Incoming yard waste is sent through a grinder to tear leaves and yard waste into 3/8" bits.
Grass is added to leaves or leaves are added to grass to create a carbon/nitrogen mix.
Material is placed in wind rows - 5 foot high piles that are 10 foot wide and as long as a football field for 180 days.
Compost is put on concrete pads for 2 weeks to cure.
Compost is sold to customers for $14 a cubic yard.