Think that compostable fork or cup you got at an Olympia business isn’t going to the landfill? Think again.
Businesses that have organic wate hauled away by the city of Olympia were told this spring that starting June 1, they could not put paper bags and plates, food-soiled cardboard, waxy cardboard and paper, compostable bags, cups, plates, utensils, straws and other plastics into their organics bin.
“It’s now going in the trash,” said Jim Unzicker at Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters, which uses compostable forks, cups and other items. “There are companies that make a conscientious effort to buy and use these products. It’s a disappointment to be outlived by your coffee cup.”
Olympia takes residential and commercial organic waste to the county’s Waste and Recovery Center in Hawks Prairie. From there, it goes to Silver Springs Organics in Rainier, a commercial composting facility owned by Waste Connections.
That facility is designed to turn yard waste, food scraps, wood and farm waste into compost in 45 days. It is then sold to a wholesaler.
But most compostable plastics don’t break down that fast, said Silver Springs site manager Samantha Fleischner.
“The way I always explain it is, ‘Are you willing to have 40 percent of a fork left over in your garden soil blend?’” Fleischner said.
For years the county paid to have materials that Silver Springs wouldn’t take hauled to a different composting facility in Snohomish County. That ended in early 2017, according to Allyson Ruppenthal, Thurston County’s recycling supervisor — partly because of the cost, which was nearly $45,000 in 2016.
“I think it’s been difficult from both the customer’s standpoint and the city’s standpoint to make this change because it was rather short notice,” said Ron Jones, senior waste reduction specialist for the city of Olympia. “Some customers are upset — they invested in a program, and we invested in a philosophy of maximizing diversions and a zero waste philosophy too.”
The change was only for commercial customers. Jones said residential organic loads are mostly yard waste and food scraps, but on the commercial side there was more cardboard and compostable bags.
Olympia had more than 170 commercial customers using its organics hauling service. Since the change, 23 have canceled.
One of them is Old School Pizzeria on Franklin Street downtown. Owner Kenny Pugh estimates 90 percent of the restaurant’s waste is pizza boxes and paper plates.
“It’s a bummer,” said Pugh, who is now looking for somewhere else to compost the boxes. “I try to throw away as little as possible.”
Batdorf & Bronson was able to significantly reduce its trash output by recycling and composting more items, said Unzicker, the company’s maintenance engineer. Over the years, its roasting facility and tasting room at 200 Market St. went from filling a two-yard dumpster to a 35-gallon trash can.
Unzicker is now looking at going back to the dumpster.
“I just hate the thought of going backward,” he said.
Abby Spegman: 360-704-6869