Composting becomes hot topic in Kent

Kent City Council, the Kent Environmental Council (KEC) and the Kent Department of Health are in talks about implementing compost regulations within the city of Kent.Jeff Neistadt, Kent health commissioner, said the discussion was inspired by the health department getting numerous calls asking how to compost and what regulations were already in place. The health department also received reports of people abusing their composts by using wrong materials such as animal feces.The Kent Department of Health presented its ideas for the compost ordinance at the March 6 city council meeting, but the passed draft ordinances have since been thrown out, according to members of KEC.“When I called the clerk of courts, she indicated to me that they were presented at that meeting, and it went nowhere,” Iris Meltzer, secretary of KEC, said. “As far as I know, it hasn’t gone back to council yet.”KEC does not support the ordinances proposed by the health department but feels that “rather than putting legal barriers in the way of composting by residents, community gardeners and urban farmers should be encouraged to utilize composting toward local, sustainable goals for gardening and yard care,” according to a letter to council from Lisa Regula Meyer, the president of KEC.The letter also said KEC “believes that current city ordinances provide sufficient guidance and regulations [regarding waste] and that composting-specific ordinances are likely to result in negative unintended consequences that impede composting and foster resentment.”

Five Composting Tips from Jeff Neistadt:

1) Don’t throw feces in the compost

2) Use organic material

3) Have a good mixture of browns, greens and grass clippings

4) Add soil, coffee grinds and egg shells

5) Make sure to have a good mixture of water

Karl Liske, master gardener and member of KEC, said the main idea is to inform the public.Liske has been composting since he was a teenager. With a compost site in his backyard that he had for about four years, he mastered the way of composting. However, he said composting is physically demanding and that is one of the main problems.Adding humus to it causes it to crumb structure – the soil particles will cling together and form crumbs – which are much easier to manage, he said.“My advice is to be patient, learn everything someone can and the best thing to do is to find somebody who’s had a lot of experience and find out the do’s and don’ts,” Liske said. “You have to have someone with hands-on experience.”Neistadt said Kent residents have been calling about complaints about composting.“Right now, we’re complaint-driven on how we go out and respond to these issues,” he said. “The residents can draw from the educational pamphlets.”The city is trying to put together an extensive educational pamphlet for residents to read and use for their composting needs.“Unfortunately we would get calls that their neighbors are throwing dog feces in their compost bins and it’s right next to their properties,” Neistadt said. “We have no choice but to go and respond to those. The pamphlets could help us resolve some issues and before we had nothing on our books so composting went on the wayside.”Neistadt said they would give warnings and fines to help enforce the restrictions, but he prefers to educate the public rather than to punish them.Jackie Bergeron and Yelena Tischenko are city reporters for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact Jackie Bergeron at [email protected].Contact Yelena Tischenko at [email protected].