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Backyard composting allowed at Hudson one- and two-family homes

People living in one- and two-family residential districts in the city of Hudson are now free to compost yard waste and some kitchen wastes in their backyards -- within limits.

The Hudson City Council on Feb. 8 adopted an ordinance allowing and establishing regulations on composting.

Council President Tom McCormick said the new Section 207-12 of the Municipal Code, titled Residential Composting, was drafted in response to a request by citizens Sue Dahl and Phyllis Jaworski to compost organic materials at their homes.

The ordinance defines composting as the controlled biological reduction of organic waste to humus (soil). It says the purpose of the ordinance is to promote the recycling of yard and certain kitchen wastes, and set rules on the proper location and maintenance of composting bins.

Chapter 207 of the Municipal Code, titled Solid Waste, previously defined all organic waste resulting from “the handling, preparation, cooking, service and consumption of food” as garbage. And the code prohibited any garbage being accumulated on residential premises.

The new ordinance excludes uncooked plant matter from being considered garbage, and allows it to be placed in backyard composting bins, along with coffee grounds, tea leaves and yard waste.

The plant matter cannot be contaminated by -- or contain -- meat, fish and/or dairy products.

Yard waste is defined as “organic waste produced from the growing, trimming and removal of grass, branches (not exceeding one inch in diameter), bushes, shrubs, plants, leaves and garden debris.”

Materials prohibited from being placed in the composting bins include cooked food scraps of any kind; fish, meat or other animal products; manure; and large items that would impede the composting process.

The freestanding bins can be no taller than 42 inches, and no larger in volume than 125 cubic feet. They can’t be placed in front or side yards, or closer than 20 feet from a neighboring house. The minimum allowable distance from the bin to rear property line is 3 feet.

Any neighborhood restrictive covenants or homeowner association rules prohibiting composting remain in effect.

The code also establishes rules on maintaining the bins.

They are to be “securely covered” to keep animals out, and maintained in a way to prevent them from producing unpleasant odors and attracting rodents and pests.

The code says the compost must be “layered, aerated, moistened, turned and managed to promote effective decomposition of the materials in a safe, secure and sanitary manner.”

The materials are to be covered with a layer of leaves, straw, wood chips or finished compost to prevent the unpleasant odors.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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