Solid waste a fascinating operation

Staff at the Pierre Solid Waste Department aerate compost with big machineray. Employees of the city’s solid waste facility put discarded yard waste in six-foot-tall windrows and turn the stuff over for aeration in the months-long decomposition process.

Val Keller loves her job — she is Pierre’s solid waste superintendent — and she loves giving in-depth tours of her facility. What some people call garbage, Keller calls recyclables.

Keller is not alone, she leads a crew of 12 others.

“My staff for the Pierre Solid Waste Department includes: one scale operator, two crew leaders, five baler/equipment operators, two refuse collection drivers who help with the baling operation two to three days of the week, one part-time operator and a summer seasonal employee,” said Keller. “This department actually functions seven days a week for most of the year. We are only closed six holidays of the year. People generate garbage every day; there isn’t a holiday from that.”

The department's hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Open or closed, the facility — located at 2800 East Park Street in Pierre — is still conveniently available for those who will want to get rid of garbage and will put the recyclables in the correct bins or piles.

“Drop-off for yard waste, trees and recycling are available to our customers 24/7,” said Keller. “Our facility offers other conveniences, too. When a load of debris is brought to the facility, there are bins for scrap metal, treated lumber, bulky items and construction debris (rubble) such as wood, sheetrock, shingles and other inert types of waste. Household garbage and wastes such as paper, plastic, fabric, carpet/padding, etc. are dumped inside the baling facility building. The employees of the department operate equipment including the baler to bale the waste and load the bales into the back of a walking floor semi-trailer, which is used to haul the bales to the city-owned and operated regional landfill. That landfill services several mid-state counties."

Some of the other recycling/reuse options include the paint swap, bicycles, and pallets. “There is more information on the web pages with that,” said Keller. Paint swapping is encouraged. Drop off usable paint that you no longer need, or pick up paint that someone else has donated. Visit during normal operating hours to see the ever-altering selection There is no fee to drop off paint or to take paint.

The solid waste facility has used bikes for sale for $5 each. Visit during normal operating hours to see the selection. There is no charge for recycling a cell phone. Old cell phones can be deposited at city hall or at the solid waste facility located at 2800 East Park Street. There is no charge for recycling rechargeable batteries (Ni-Cd, Li-ion, Pb, and Ni-MH). They can be deposited at city hall or at the solid waste facility. The facility even takes light bulbs for recycling.

As stated, Keller and her department have their own link on the city’s website: To set up free tours for groups, organizations, students, etc., call 773-7434.

“I am always open to tours of all ages,” said Keller. “It is great to be able to provide tours of the operations to kids; they learn and take the information back home to their parents.”

Roll off containers are available evenings and weekends for yard waste, trees and recyclables. “You are not required to cross the scale for these items. The bins are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Keller. All items — other than yard waste, trees and recyclables — must cross the scale to make payment and receive dumping directions.

Garbage or not; the operation is a clean one. Vehicles hauling loads of garbage, rubble or trees that are not secured or covered to eliminate spills can be hit with a $20 fine.

Scrap metal items include stoves, microwaves and water heaters. Appliances containing freon (refrigerators and freezers) are only accepted if the freon has been removed by a certified person, and the completed form with signature from a certified freon removal service is provided with the appliance.

Recyclable items that can be dropped off in the bins include aluminum cans and corrugated cardboard (the stuff with “waffling”). Please do not bring other food, beer, soda containers or waxed corrugated cardboard. Other recyclables for the bins include home office paper (please place in plastic bag and tie), magazines, newspaper and inserts, numbers one and two hard plastic and steel (tin) cans.

Recyclable items that must come across the scales are crushed asphalt, concrete and pallets.

Non-recyclable items include: glass containers, blueprints, brown envelopes, brown paper bags, carbon paper, cardboard food containers, chipboard, construction paper, EKG paper, Fed-Ex, UPS or priority mail envelopes, food containers/paper cartons, hanging file folders, hardcover books, magnetic ink strips, microfiche, paper towels, paperback books, pendaflex folders, plastic bags, plastic or metal spiral bound paper (unless spiral is removed), ream wrap paper, tissues and wax laminated wrapping paper.

Each year more than 3.5 million pounds of yard waste — autumn leaves, garden waste and grass — is recycled and turned into high-quality compost. After the compost is screened to remove any inorganic material, it is used to reestablish soil throughout the Pierre area.

Keller said the city and the public have used the compost by mixing it with topsoil, which helps grow very good lawns and vegetation.

“We monitor the compost throughout the year to make sure it’s receiving optimal levels of heat, air and moisture and morphing into the good stuff,” she said.

It takes anywhere from three to 12 months for yard waste to become good compost. The decomposition process generally slows in the colder winter months. The yard waste is piled into large windrows. Temperatures of the decomposing stuff in the windrows is between 130 and 140 degrees, and the staff runs a compost turner over the windrows to aerate the stuff and help the biological composting process. Completed compost sells for a certain amount per ton plus tax. The compost is analyzed and registered as a fertilizer with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.

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