County in quandary: Incineration or composting?



Whether the county should opt for incineration or composting for its yard waste in the future was a major concern at the Monday, March 10 meeting of the Monroe County Climate Change Advisory Committee. The county’s yard waste is currently being trucked to the mainland for $85 per ton. One option for composting, also on the mainland, would reduce that cost to $60 per ton. But cost is only one factor being considered. The focus of this committee is, of course, sustainability of the Keys way of life relative to an anticipated rise in sea level in coming years. Disposal of yard waste is merely one factor that impacts sustainability.

The RFP for the disposal of county yard waste will be written broadly enough to allow for proposals for both incineration and composting (or any other disposal method) to be acceptable. The Advisory Committee members will provide Rhonda Haag, County Sustainability Manager with their priorities and determine evaluation criteria for the RFP at an upcoming workshop meeting and Haag will actually develop the RFP. There was considerable discussion as to whether it would be better to accept a short term, say two-year proposal, or to commit to a 10-year proposal. The Advisory Committee seems to be ambivalent about explicitly stating exactly what its long-term goals are, but members do periodically refocus on the sustainability aspect of their assignment.  

In her Sustainability Report to the committee, Haag focused on the work staff is currently doing and raised a number of issues for this committee’s consideration. Staff is currently collecting and organizing data relative to community education, communication and engagement as well as the choice homeowners may express for adapting to changing conditions of sea level. Economic damage from sea level rise, damage from storm surges, cost relative to potential savings, benefits to the environment, community and county infrastructure modeling needed as a result of sea level rise are also issues that are be addressed.

Greatly oversimplified, she reported, modeling is analyzing what exists, what potential damage may result from climate change and sea level rise and then determining what actions can be taken to mitigate that potential damage. A gap analysis is currently being conducted to identify and organize missing information and data, which is to be completed by April.

Two kinds of modeling need to take place are county and community, Haag reported. Workshops for homeowners need to be conducted to help citizens determine how they want to prepare for eventual sea level rise and its impact. This will be their choice. The focus of county modeling is on infrastructure. In each case determinations must be made on what actions are most effective and perhaps most cost effective to mitigate the potential damage from sea level rise. Effectively, what will the homeowner and what will the county get for each dollar spent?  

Haag and the committee discussed how various areas of the Keys would be identified for sustainability attention. There was general agreement that economic and geographic data be considered. They questioned should the recommendation of the Advisory Committee to the County Commission be to select one area of the Keys for attention before moving on to others, or should accommodations for sea level rise be addressed in the Lower, Middle and Upper Keys at the same time.

 Also whether County owned areas in special need, such as the Marathon Airport, which readily floods even now, could also be singled out for attention. The consensus of the Advisory Committee was to plan for at least three areas of the Keys simultaneously: Key Largo, Big Pine and Stock Island. The County has contracted for $200,000 for this aspect of the project. An additional $30,000 would be required if additional sites are included in this phase of the project.

The next meeting of the County Advisory Committee on Climate Change is Wednesday, May 14, from 12-4 p.m. at the Marathon Government Center.









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