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Blue Hen Organics Article in The Coastal Point

Blue Hen Organics is featured in the January 7th edition of The Coastal Point.

New yard waste facility offers options

Date Published: 

January 7, 2011

With all of the talk about universal recycling and the “bottle bill,” the state’s new yard-waste ban seems to have gone under the radar, but there are changes in that area for 2011, as well.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, yard waste mixed with trash is banned from disposal in Delaware Solid Waste Authority’s (DSWA) Kent and Sussex landfills, near Sandtown and Georgetown. The ban is part of a DNREC permit condition for landfill expansion and to encourage the recycling of the estimated 30,000 tons of yard waste deposited each year in the Kent and Sussex landfills.

Yard waste can still be brought to a separate area within the landfills to be composted for the standard tipping fee, but it can no longer be co-mingled with household trash. The segregated yard waste dropped off at the landfills will be recycled into mulch and compost.

DNREC’s Web site includes information on the options now available to homeowners and businesses for managing yard waste on their properties. They include:

• Composting or mulching on their own properties, including grass-cycling and using a mulching lawn mower;

• Hauling it themselves to a commercial facility that accepts yard waste;

• Having someone else handle the yard waste;

• Contacting their waste hauler;

• Contacting a landscaping/lawn service

• Contacting a local recycler; and

• Developing a community-wide solution by creating a town or community yard-waste site.

Robert Tunnell III and Shannon Argo of Blue Hen Organics own the first commercial facility in Sussex County that accepts yard waste, and they have been open since April 2010.

“We saw the writing on the wall with Cherry Island and the yard-waste ban in New Castle County and observed what was happening. And, basically, putting it all together it seemed the logical next step,” Tunnell said of creating a yard waste/composting facility in Sussex County.

He explained that the permitting and zoning process for Blue Hen Organics started about five years ago and, finally, in April of 2010, they opened their “doors.” The facility has the capacity to collect 120 tons of yard waste per day, but Tunnell explained that they have only built out 12 of their permitted 46 acres and will now see where the demands takes them. Right now, they have five full-time employees and one part-time employee and, at full build out, could employ around 20 people.

The site collects leaves, grass clippings, trees and plant trimmings, land-clearing debris, poultry manure and construction wood (pallets, plywood and lumber that has not been painted, stained or treated).

Tunnell noted that, since yard waste is high in carbon, when poultry manure or grass clippings are added to the composting mixture, they can get the right carbon/nitrogen blend for the end product to be beneficial.

Yard waste coming in the facility is noted for its volume, material type and weight and then recorded by the facility’s computer system. Trucks are then directed to a centralized tipping area for unloading, to assure optimal safety standards. The material is then inspected for contaminants, and the contaminant-free material is sorted and moved to the grinding area.

The mixtures or organic materials are then placed directly in “trapezoidal windrows,” explained Tunnell, based on a computer formula for each type of compost. Temperatures are read, the mixtures are turned, and documentation is recorded during the “pathogen reduction period,” as required by the EPA, and then the mature compost is checked again for contaminants and any contaminants found are removed.

“Our finished compost exceeds EPA 503 standards and is tested for organic content, nutrient value, carbon/nitrogen ratio and other items to ensure a high quality end product,” said Tunnell.

He explained that typical customers for the facility include individuals, waste haulers, local landscaping contractors and tree-service companies, as well as municipalities, but he said he suspects it will grow once people really catch on that there are new rules for yard waste.

“Bethany Beach seems really ahead of everybody,” he noted. That town took over recycling collection last summer and has also adapted to pick up yard waste now that the ban has been implemented. “Everybody has been really focused on single stream recycling,” Tunnell said. “Yard waste snuck up on some people.”

Blue Hen charges $20 per ton for disposal of yard waste and land debris, $40 per ton for construction wood, and poultry manure drop off is free. It is partly the prices, Tunnell said, that act as an incentive for people to bring their yard waste to Blue Hen, plus the environmental benefits.

“Compared to $80 a ton at the landfill, we charge $20 a ton to compost, and we are not filling up the landfill. There is a lot of positives, and there has been a good response. It’s slowly getting out there, and people are starting to understand what we do … composting versus landfilling and the environmental benefits.”

Blue Hen Organics sells Bay Organics Green Compost, Blue Hen Blended Topsoil and Blue Hen Hardwood Mulch. Its hours are Monday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. for material drop-off and products sales. The facility is located at 33529 Fox Run Road near Frankford.

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