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Curb It: City of Boise's solid waste management program

Five years ago, the City of Boise instituted a new residential waste recycling program and since then, residents have been enjoying the benefits of free compost.

BOISE, Idaho — Did you know residents of Boise can get free compost for their yards and gardens? It is all part of the city's sold waste management program called 'Curb It.'

On this week's 'You Can Grow It,' in the first of a two-part series about Boise's compost recycling program, KTVB Garden Master Jim Duthie shows how the program works and how Boiseans can enjoy the benefits of free compost for gardens and a cleaner environment for everyone. 

Almost everyday, in cities and towns throughout Idaho, trash is collected and taken to the local landfill, or – in some cases – to recycling centers, but in the City of Boise, there is an additional bin with a green lid, and that waste comes back to city residents as an added benefit.

Five years ago, the City of Boise instituted a new residential waste recycling program and since then, city residents have been enjoying the benefits of free compost.

Recycling your garden and yard waste helps keep it out of the landfill, and brings about many beneficial things, like having compost to put back into your yard and garden.

In 2014, a county-wide survey showed that almost half of the residential waste being collected in Ada County was organic. So, rather than putting it into the landfill – where it would generate methane, a greenhouse gas – Boise developed a program to process it and put it back into our valley soils, as explained by City of Boise Materials Management Environmental Analyst, Lisa Knapp.

“So, our compost program is part of our Curb It program, which is our residential household waste management," Knapp said. "So, the compost program is one of our three bins that most people will have the bin. You’ll have a trash, recycle and a compost, where we can put anything that’s organic that comes out of our yards, or it comes out of kitchens.” 

This compost is often called ‘black gold’. It’s a very beneficial product that you can recycle back into your yard and garden.

“So, in the City of Boise, our compost program is for everyone. It doesn’t cost anything, and it goes into your regular trash bill to have it, so all of our residents have access to it. After waste is taken up, we take it out to our compost facility 20 miles south of town," Knapp said. "There it spends about six months going through processing and becoming this compost and every household in Boise has access to pick up free compost at our residential give-back sites. Households can take two cubic yards a year.”

The compost looks like garden soil, but it is actually missing the three components of soil – sand, silt or clay – but it is a nutritious additive to amend the soil in your home landscape and help it retain moisture.

“It will also keep your ground a little bit warmer early in the season so you can keep your vegetable garden production longer, but mostly it’s full of nutrients, so what we’re doing with compost is we’re cycling all those nutrients back into our soils, back into our valley, so that we can continue that cycle and have healthy soils," Knapp said.

In addition to picking up and recycling grass clippings, tree and shrub prunings and fall leaves, it can also process noxious weeds that you would not want to put into your own backyard compost pile.

“We can take them to our industrial facility, and we reach temperatures upwards of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which will kill off pathogens and will also inoculate those weeds so that they won’t come back and grow again,” Knapp said.

Even the paper leaf bags are recyclable.

“Those actually will compost and break down in that process and there will be nothing left," Knapp said. "When we see plastic bags, the big black plastic leaf bags, or those pumpkin leaf bags you get at Halloween, those can’t be composted, and typically that entire bag will be pulled out and put into the garbage, including the leaves that you put inside it.” 

Compost recycling is one of Boise's most popular solid waste programs.

“People in Boise really love having this program," Knapp said. "We love knowing that when you’re putting something in a bin that it’s going to be truly recycled and reused and not landfilled.”

Instead, it comes back to build healthy soils in our own yards and gardens.

Boise is currently the only Treasure Valley city to offer such a program, although Garden City recently rolled out a composting program and Meridian has a yard waste and leaf collection program, but neither of those cities offer the free compost give-back. 

Next week, on 'You Can Grow It,' Duthie will tell viewers more about Boise's compost program, which has received national certification, as well as another great compost give-back program, where you can be a neighborhood 'compost host.'

Watch more You Can Grow It:

See them all in our YouTube playlist here: 

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