PALMER — A program that could provide residents with free compost soil is coming to the Mat-Su’s central landfill in Palmer thanks to a new grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The $3.5 million recycling grant, announced Monday, will pay for a new 2.5-acre composting facility on the southeast side of the 620-acre landfill.
The funding will pay for the facility, debris transportation and employee hours needed to create a composting system out of the landfill’s current dumping program for brush, grass and leaves, said Jeff Smith, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s solid waste manager.
Under the current plan, yard waste brought to the central landfill is run through a chipper, then used to manage water runoff throughout the landfill, while yard waste dumped at the system’s transfer stations is typically burned, he said.
While wood debris from trees can currently be dumped free, dumping grass and leaves costs $128 per ton, or about $20 per pickup truck load, he said. Users dumped about 5,000 tons of brush, grass and leaves waste last year, he said.
Under the new program, which Smith said will be ready by spring of 2025, employees will transport all organic waste to the central landfill for processing, which can take about eight weeks.
Compost will then be available for free residential use from the central landfill or the transfer stations in Willow, Talkeetna and Big Lake, he said.
“You get a real fine compost that can be used for potting flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, you name it,” he said.
The compost will not be available for commercial users, he said.
Unlike Anchorage, the Mat-Su landfill does not currently accept food scraps for composting. But Smith said he hopes to eventually change that.
“Our intent right now is let’s get the program started and operational and get this thing moving,” he said. “And then as we do, we can build it and potentially add food waste.”
The central landfill’s composting area will be accessed through a new southern entrance, which is set to open next year, he said. The relocated entry point is designed to reduce traffic backups at the landfill’s current 49th State Street gate.