Our very own composting place

Mailliard’s Landing is saving the city of Oak Harbor hundreds of dollars a month by accepting grass, leaves, brush, pumpkins, Christmas trees and other organic material that used to be trucked all the way to Burlington.

In addition, the nursery on N. Oak Harbor Road now offers the community an easy way to get rid of yard waste, with the opportunity of reclaiming the material after it’s transformed into a rich, earth-friendly medium.

A few weeks ago, Mailliard’s Landing became the first and only licensed composting facility in Island County.

It’s a big operation, capable of handling up to 18,000 cubic yards of material a year. At the urging of the Island County Health Department, owner Michael Mailliard made a sizable investment in the new facility, which required a 28,000-square-foot asphalt pad and two sediment ponds, as well as the heavy equipment to handle it.

“It’s real clean,” Mailliard said, taking a handful of the rich, naturally-warm material. “We’re real pleased with it.”

Turning leaves and sticks into fine compost is quite an involved process.

Mailliard explained that the facility accepts yard waste both from the city — which picks it up curbside — and from individuals. The tipping fee, which barely covers the cost of processing, for people who drop the stuff off is $10 a cubic yard. Clean sheet rock can also be composted, for $20 a cubic yard.

The material is placed into two different piles. The sheetrock is all dumped into one mound. While the gypsum-based material is a good bulking agent for compost, Mailliard said it gives it a gray look, while many gardeners prefer darker compost.

When the piles gets big enough, the company calls the man with the grinder. The material is ground twice and screened. Afterward, it is placed in giant piles which are periodically turned and moved. As the material starts to break down, it heats up on the inside. Mailliard said the temperature must be constantly monitored and the material is even lab tested.

When it’s finished, Mailliard sells the compost back the community. It’s both sold straight as compost, while the material with sheetrock is mixed with soil and sand to become their famous Three-Way Mix.

Katie Hicks, an environmental health specialist with the Island County Department, said she encouraged the company to pursue composting because of the many benefits to the community.

“The public has been looking for ways to get rid of yard waste,” she said. “This way the material is kept on the island and turned into a beneficial product that doesn’t have weed seeds and won’t affect public health at all.”

Keeping as such material out of landfills, she said, is good for the environment and saves money.

Steve Bebee with the Oak Harbor’s public works department estimates that an on-island composting facility will save the city hundreds of dollars a month and free up workers.

The city picks up yard waste curbside in 95-gallon containers or special brown paper bags that customers can purchase at local stores.

Previously, city crews had to pile the material and then drive it all the way to Skagit County up to three times a week. Now, Bebee said they simply unload the brush and leaves at Mailliard’s each day, saving the cost of driving and a lot of staff time. The city pays the same $35-a-ton tipping fee as previously.

Also, Bebee pointed out that the short trip means the city is creating less pollution and greenhouse gases.

As for the nursery, Mailliard’s is hoping the new service will help business by offering yet another service and product to the community.

“We’re becoming quite a one-stop shop,” Mailliard said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynews or call 675-6611.

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