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Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

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(January 12, 2017) 

A six-month study of Omaha’s yard waste collection and disposal system has been completed and will be used to evaluate future solid waste collection services

Mayor Stothert said the objective of the study was to answer two questions, what is the cost of producing and bagging Oma-Gro and are there environmental benefits of collecting yard waste and trash together?

“It verifies a lot of the areas we had already looked at,” said Mayor Stothert.

The City Council approved the $160,000 yard waste study in June and later requested that SCS add the public opinion survey and a comparative analysis of other cities.  

SCS studied five different scenarios for yard waste:

  • Separate yard waste collection and composting by the City
  • Comingled collection of yard waste and garbage, taken to the landfill
  • Separate yard waste collection and composting by a third party, hauled to a third party facility
  • Separate yard waste collection and composting by a third party with a transfer station, then hauled to a third party facility
  • Comingled collection of yard waste with garbage and landfilling with limited voluntary drop-off of yard waste by citizens to an at-risk third party facility

The study listed numerous outcomes:

  • Elimination of separate yard waste collection reduces necessary collection routes
  • Elimination of separate yard waste collection eliminates the expense of operating the Oma-Gro composting operation.

The SCS study determined the total cost to make and sell Oma-Gro, including separate collection of yard waste, production and packaging is $1.3 million annually.  The annual revenue from sales in approximately $160-170,000. 

“Making Oma-Gro is expensive for the taxpayers,” said Mayor Stothert.

  • Elimination of separate yard waste collection results in estimated $8 million savings, equal to $60 per household annually
  • Landfilling yard waste will reduce the life of the landfill by an estimated 3.79% with the landfill reaching capacity in 117 years versus the current estimate of 122 years
  • Landfilling yard waste will result in additional landfill gas available for electrical generation
  • Landfilling yard waste results in modeled greenhouse gas emissions that are marginally higher than when separately collected and composted; approximately 2,459 megagrams (Mg) CO2e in year 2040.  This amount is equivalent to the annual tailpipe emissions of about 3,560 passenger vehicles.

 “The study is not intended to suggest one approach is better than another, landfilling and composting are both viable alternatives,” said Mike Miller, Vice-President of SCS Engineers.

Yard Waste Study Report Final version 1.0

Thirteen cities are included in the comparative analysis. The telephone survey included 550 citizens from all city council districts.

“We really want to know what people want,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. 

The survey shows participants are generally satisfied with the collection services provided by the city.

Most (92%) discard yard waste on occasion.  Six in 10 people said they would support limits on yard waste collection.  Yard waste is currently unlimited even though the City currently does limit the number of containers that can be used for garbage each week.

The survey found general support for an automated collection system using carts. This type of system is currently being tested in 5 neighborhoods.  The test will run through April.  ( )

Public Opinion Survey Summary Letter Final version 1.0

Public Opinion Survey Summary Letter Final version 1.0 (redacted cross tabs)

The results of the yard waste study, public survey and comparative analysis, along with the results of the ongoing pilot program testing automatic pickup of yard waste, trash and recycling will be evaluated as the city prepares to develop a new Request for Proposals for collection.

Omaha’s current contract with Waste Management has been in place since 2006.  The contract was originally awarded to Deffenbaugh Industries; Waste Management purchased Deffenbaugh in 2015.  The 10-year contract had a provision for a five-year extension which the City Council approved.  The contract expires in 2020.  Waste Management has indicated it would agree to terminate the contract early and bid on a new proposal.  The RFP is expected to be ready by late summer.

The city currently budgets $20 million a year for solid waste collection.

“The current contract is very beneficial to the City of Omaha,” said Public Works Director Bob Stubbe.  “We don’t believe any contract moving forward will even be close to what we pay now.”

“Our intent is to provide better service to the citizens of Omaha,” said Mayor Stothert.

Benchmark Study Report Final version 1.0