“We came here to learn more, to see if a program like this could serve the Moab area,” said Heila Ershadi, a Moab City Council member who attended the facility tour. “It’s an amazing operation.”
Pam Hackley and Bob Greenberg represented the Grand County Solid Waste Special Service District on the tour. The district’s 5-year Integrated Solid Waste Plan calls for saving money by diverting waste from the district’s landfills. Greenberg said composting is “becoming an important option for this in many areas of Utah.”
The Mesa County facility accepts organic materials from local residents free of charge. Often called “green waste,” those materials include grass clippings, leaves, untreated wood and manure. The Mesa County Solid Waste Management Division uses those materials to produce high quality compost, a soil amendment that improves soil fertility and its ability to hold moisture, Ershadi said in a news release. The finished compost product is sold to the public, generating revenue for the facility.
In 2013, the composting facility sold more than $300,000.00 worth of compost and mulch, according to the news release.
“Factoring in how much money is saved by diverting these organic materials from the landfill, the composting program is a definite money saver for the county,” Ershadi said. “In addition to extending the life of the landfill and providing a quality soil amendment at an affordable cost, the program keeps yard waste from being burned, thereby reducing fire hazard and air pollution.”
To make the compost, the organic material is chipped and put into rows, where it is watered and periodically turned by machine. Naturally occurring microscopic organisms thrive in those conditions, quickly transforming the green waste into nutrient-rich compost within four to six months. The facility operates year-round, and also does a number of educational programs for the local schools.
The Old Spanish Trail Arena produces a great deal of manure and used stall bedding which could be composted and used to replace chemical fertilizers on the new adjacent ball fields, according to Steve Swift, the manager of the OSTA facility and the fourth member of the tour.
The tour was conducted by Cameron Garcia, Mesa County’s Solid Waste and Sustainability Division director, and the district’s office manager, Amber Swasey, who is originally from Moab. They were optimistic about Grand County’s ability to create a similar program, according to the news release. They pointed to the fact that Utah has fewer regulatory hurdles than does Colorado, and there is already some public awareness in the Moab area as to what compost is and why it can be a good alternative to chemical fertilizers.
Local officials said that even though Moab is considerably smaller than Grand Junction, Grand County generates enough green waste to do the same thing on a smaller scale.
The Moab landfill on Sand Flats Road is scheduled for closure in 2026 and the Grand County Solid Waste District plans to further explore the potential of developing a composting facility, in collaboration with other interested parties and individuals, said Hackley. The amount of water and space needed for such a facility are two potential drawbacks in desert communities.
“We want to be a zero-waste community,” Hackley said. “Landfill space is very expensive. So anything you can take out of the landfill and put back into use in another way is all for the better good.”