A Farewell to Sonoma Compost

By June 4, 2015 June 29th, 2015 News

The County Supervisors – each and every one of them – have shown a lack of moral courage – not to mention disregard for enlightened environmental practices, and basic intelligent good sense – when they voted unanimously to bow down to the pressures of a lawsuit brought by neighbors of Sonoma Compost Company.

Can I say with some bitterness that our elected officials failed us completely – completely – when they cast a unanimous vote to close Sonoma Compost instead of taking a leadership role in negotiating a compromise with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and implementing the reasonable and practical alternatives offered by the community?

Pam Davis, General Manager of Sonoma Compost, offers this information:

“First of all, Sonoma Compost was successful in demonstrating that recycled yard debris could be composted into materials that people wanted.

We were asked by the County to develop this program in 1992 to meet recycling goals, and we went so much further. By working with farmers and landscapers, the company focused on developing products folks actually wanted, and have come to rely on. Our successful program has generated a market for 90,000 cubic yards of material annually – material that is now going away.

How will we measure that impacts to our local growers? It’s not like there is even another source for these products. Besides being a vitamin pill for our gardens, there are significant water holding benefits to adding organic matter to the soil.

There are impacts to other businesses as well. Besides the trucking companies that we contract with, all local drivers and families, we work with several local businesses by taking their waste products. Feathers from a local big name poultry processor, and winery tank wash water from wineries, are incorporated into our compost to add value to our product, and provide a more cost-effective means of ‘disposing’ of waste products to our partners. The costs these businesses will have to assume will be huge once we are unable to accept the materials.

The Waste Management Agency is estimating over $2 million dollars per year of additional cost to consumers for out hauling the county’s yard debris to out-of-county facilities. These costs will be reflected in our already increased garbage rates.

The settlement requires that we be completely off site by October 1st.”

Where are the words to describe what a painful, unnecessary, and just plain stupid loss this is for all of us?

Paula Downing is the Manager of the Sebastopol Certified Farmers’ Market and a member of the Slow Food Russian River Leadership Team.

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