Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Every week, hundreds of thousands of Sonoma County residents dutifully gather grass clippings from their yards and food scraps from their kitchens, toss them into green bins and then cart them to the curb alongside their garbage and recycling.
Tons of this so-called “green waste” is then hauled, at a cost of $5 million per year, to other counties, where it is chopped up, often mixed with chicken guts, encouraged to rapidly decompose, and then sold as compost.
The process takes place entirely outside Sonoma County — mostly in Mendocino, Napa and Marin counties — ever since Sonoma Compost, the county’s longtime compost operation atop the Central Landfill, was shut down nearly three years ago for wastewater violations.
Now local officials face a complex but crucial decision about the future of composting in Sonoma County, one that will have major implications for the life of the county landfill, the rate of emission of greenhouse gases and the size of people’s garbage bills.
That decision is whether to encourage the construction of a new, modern composting facility here, with costs of $50 million or more, or whether to continue hauling the material to existing facilities elsewhere indefinitely.