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[GreenYes] RELEASE: Composting Expert Challenges WMI Claims
January 7, 2002
Contact: Jim McNelly, 320-253-5076


(ST. CLOUD, Minn., January 7)   Jim McNelly, founder 
of the U.S. Composting Council and Chair of its 
Environmental Policy Committee, today charged 
that Waste Management Inc.'s claims in support 
of eliminating yard waste disposal bans have 
"virtually no scientific basis." 

    "Anyone who knows the slightest thing 
about the process of decomposition," said 
Council spokesperson Jim McNelly, "would have 
to conclude that either the trash hauler has 
only remedial knowledge about this subject or 
has no compunction trying to hoodwink the 

    McNelly disputed two key claims Waste 
Management Inc:

    FIRST CLAIM:  Diverting yard trimmings 
back to the landfill will produce clean energy.

    FACT:  Methane from yard trimmings will 
not produce significant amounts of energy
energy because most landfill gases will be 
released before the collection and electricity 
generating systems are even installed.

    "What Waste Management is attempting to 
hide from the people of Peoria," McNelly said, 
"is the fact that the piping systems used to 
capture a part of the toxic brew of gases 
emitted by landfills - one of which is methane 
- do not even get installed due to logistical 
constraints until after almost all of the 
methane has already been released."  

    "Grass clippings, which comprise the 
majority of yard trimmings, decompose in 
months, while gas collection systems do not get 
installed in most cases for at least five 
years," McNelly pointed out. "Moreover, 
landfill gas is often contaminated with toxic 
compounds that threaten public health and is in 
no way 'clean.'"

    SECOND CLAIM:  Diverting yard trimmings back to 
the landfill will not take up more room at the 
site because of it will decompose.

    FACT: Even after yard trimmings decompose 
in a landfill, more than three-fourths of its 
original densified volume will remain.

    "As to that part of the yard material 
that is wetted and does decompose, the fact 
that the trimmings will degrade does not mean 
that they disappear," McNelly said.  "Most of 
the volume reduction that does occur is due to 
the only a percentage, rarely over 40% of the 
volatile fraction of the yard material, while 
most of the weight reduction is simply from 
moisture escaping. The non-liquid part does not 
disappear, he said, but is biologically 
transformed into another substance that, if 
conducted with uncontaminated yard trimmings, 
is basically compost. It is never totally lost. 
No form of natural decomposition reduces that 
much of the organic material."

    McNelly was quick to add that when 
decomposition is done in a source-separated 
compost operation rather than in a landfill, 
the large residual volume then becomes 
something positive, because compost that has 
not been contaminated with toxic-laden solid 
waste can be converted into a marketable 
horticulture planter mix or returned to the 
soil to restore fertility to our crop and 
forest land. 

    The U.S. Composting Council 
( is a member of the 
Coalition to Oppose Attacks on Recycling in 
America, an alliance of 12 national, regional 
and local groups organized by the Grassroots 
Recycling Network (  

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