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How To Compost

Dallas sustainability freaks dig into composting at free workshop

Dallas sustainability freaks dig into composting at free workshop

Austin photo: News_Ryan_Organic waste collection_Jan 2013_compost
Compost all day long at a free seminar in Dallas. Photo courtesy of the Greenest Dollar

As part of an overall program to shrink the amount of waste, the City of Dallas is offering a seminar on composting that's relevant both to the homeowner with a backyard as well as apartment dwellers who want to compost in their kitchen.

The Art of Composting Improving the North Texas Soil is an all-day seminar on September 26 that covers composting, soil treatment, and information on plants that do well in North Texas.

Murray Myers, a coordinator with the city's sanitation department which is sponsoring the event, says that they've offered a variety of classes in the past, but this is the first time they'll be holding a day-long event. "In the past couple of years, sustainability issues have become a lot more popular," Myers says.

They anticipate around 100 attendees. Participants get a compost thermometer, T-shirt, and a copy of the book Let It Rot. While focused on Dallas residents, anyone can attend for free.

One key area the seminar addresses that hasn't been in the past is composting for those who don't have a big backyard. They'll clarify which of your foodstuffs are compostable, and how to store them.

"We'll be bringing in the folks from Texas Worm Ranch, and also discuss the 'bokashi' method of composting, which are both viable if you live in an apartment and want to do it indoors," he says.

In 2013, the Dallas City Council passed a "zero waste plan" that specified that the city would graduate to zero waste between now and 2040. Dallas' sanitation department serves 242,000 households.

The average recycling rate in cities in the United States is 35 percent; Dallas comes in at a disappointing 20 percent.

"Most cities are able to divert their brush material," Myers says. "Homeowners can put their brush in bulk at the curb once a month, and we'll come and collect it. You can mix in your brush with your couch or TV which makes it difficult to divert brush. So we're not able to divert that material for mulch."

"We are looking at some changes," he says. "We've looked at cities like Austin, San Antonio, Houston, where they separate it so that one month it's brush and the next month it's bulky material."

The city has a plan with 11 key areas for improvement that include rethinking relationships with multifamily dwellings, hotels, and office buildings. Meyers says that the city is currently working on a composting pilot program, possibly setting up a composting facility at a landfill. That could entail the city creating the program itself or bringing in a vendor like Living Earth or Organics Recycling.

"We're working on the details of the pilot, but we sense that residents want to compost now, so we shouldn't wait until however long that takes," he says. "That's why we decided to do the seminar classes so the residents can do it in their backyard rather than wait."

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The Art of Composting: Improving the North Texas Soil takes place September 26 from 8 am-4:30 pm at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center, 17360 Coit Rd. To enroll, call 214 670-4475 or email kathleen.graham@dallascityhall.com.