Madison to end its popular curbside compost program - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Madison to end its popular curbside compost program

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The city of Madison is abandoning its popular compost pilot program for financial reasons.

Since June 2011, homes in certain areas of Madison have had a third bin for organic waste. It's been a very popular program among users and has expanded. Now, about 500 families participate and the city's streets department had planned this summer to expand that to 1,600 homes and 25 businesses.

Thad Jakusz lives in the pilot program area on the south side of Madison. He says he got involved right away when he heard about it.

"Having the ability for the city to just pick it up and take it with the normal trash is really nice," Jakusz tells 27 News. "It is very convenient and I'm glad it's not going into the landfill and [is] being used for something more useful."

The city transports the organic waste collected to a biodigester at UW-Oshkosh, to keep it out of the city's landfill. The goal is to build a city-run biodigester in Madison that could power city buildings.

This year, the streets department realized they needed screening equipment at the UW-Oshkosh digester to filter out plastics and other non-compostable products that inevitably end up in the bins. George Dreckmann, with streets, says that would cost an additional $120,000 that's not available in the budget.

After consulting with Mayor Paul Soglin, Dreckmann says it's unclear when a biodigester might be built. The streets department decided to shut down the pilot program, delaying the expansion at least a year. Dreckmann says they'll likely need to find an alternate funding source to be able to continue the program sometime in the next five years.

"We were operating for the last year and a half under the assumption that in 2016 we would construct the digester and then in 2017 we'd phase in the program throughout the city," Dreckmann tells 27 News. "I'm hoping that we can find a path forward and I'm going to still look to see if we can find a way to make this happen."

Several members of the Madison City Council will consider whether the city can help fund the $120,000 equipment needs in the 2015 budget. Mayor Soglin will be presenting his proposal for the budget to the council on Tuesday.

Council President Chris Schmidt tells 27 News he needs to find out more about whether the city can build the digester in a reasonable amount of time before making a decision to put in any more money.

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