A new municipal waste collection program that separates collection of organic waste from other refuse is set to begin on April 1 in the Borough of State College, State College Public Service Manager Ed Holmes said.
The program will try to increase the amount of material diverted from landfills — including food waste, paper towels, pizza boxes and leaves — to instead be composted, Holmes said.
Each resident will receive new refuse carts and organic waste carts that work with the new automated trash collection vehicles by mid-March, Holmes said.
The project began in the early 2000s when a waste audit was done to determine what materials made up the trash from Centre County, State College Public Works Director Mark Whitfield said.
The findings showed that 40 percent of the county’s waste was organic, which was typical compared to the rest of the nation, Whitfield said.
In 2006, a number of people from Centre County, including Whitfield, participated in a program in Germany and Austria where they learned how those countries deal with organic waste, Whitfield said.
This group brought these ideas back to State College where a pilot program was done, Whitfield said. The pilot program worked with 550 homes and other buildings in the school district as well as businesses, Holmes said.
The final report from the program showed that collecting organic materials and green waste separately from refuse is cost effective, Whitfield said.
Borough Council authorized changing the trash collection system to use the new automated trucks for 2012, Courtney Hayden, State College communication and special projects coordinator, said. This will speed up the time each stop takes from 45 seconds to 12 seconds per stop, Hayden said.
By implementing the automated collection and separating organic waste, the new waste collection program will be paying for itself by saving money on what goes to the landfill, Hayden said.
“We have an opportunity to be in the forefront on this endeavor,” Whitfield said.
Most composting projects have been west of the Mississippi River, and this is one of the biggest of such endeavors east of the Mississippi River, Hayden said.
This program will only apply to residential trash collection at first, Holmes said. Once the 3,300-3,400 residential stops are running smoothly, the focus later in the year will turn to implementing organic waste collection from commercial trash, Holmes said.
The ultimate goal is to get down to zero waste, meaning less than five percent of all trash would go to the landfill, Whitfield said.
“It’s been a great effort by a number of different people and we’re anxious and excited to be able to roll this out,” Holmes said.