The City of Dickinson has acquired a cooperative grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Conservation Service to acquire 300 composting bins for its pilot program “Backyard Buckets.”

The federal share awarded to the City of Dickinson was estimated at $66,200. The city share includes a community site at the Baler Building and five other community sites that will be located throughout Dickinson. The city share offers “in-kind services,” Recycling Coordinator Rachel Shumaker said, noting that includes Shumaker’s wages for two hours a week for the next two years and the recycling department’s administrative assistant for one hour a week for the next two years.

“It’s not anything that the city is doing themselves. It’s to help residents get started composting in their backyards to help divert some of that usable waste to get it out of the landfill,” Shumaker said.

Shumaker provided a report on the “community compost and food waste reduction grant” during the Oct. 5 Dickinson City Commission meeting noting that the City of Dickinson was one of 24 in the United States and the only city within this region that received this grant. The City of Dickinson partnered with Peace Lutheran Church and its Community Garden, Urban Forestry Committee, North Dakota State University Extension Center, Stark-Billing County NDSU Extension and Dickinson Parks and Recreation.

“So we had a pretty big group to partner with there and they’re helping out sites as well as educational information for our residents,” Shumaker said, adding that one of the requirements for the grant was to obtain partnerships.

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In February, the city launched a public survey for interested green thumbs in the “Backyard Buckets” program and received a lot more feedback than Shumaker was expecting. The city is only set to handle 300 people — which includes the ones who signed up for the pilot project earlier this year, Shumaker continued. Countertop bins and kitchen scales will also be available so that residents can measure the amount of food waste they’re diverting, Shumaker said, explaining that it will help to have an actual unit of measurement to share with the USDA and NRCS.

“I’m hoping that it brings another avenue for getting waste out of the landfill (and) save us a little more room,” Shumaker said.

Recycling Coordinator Rachel Shumaker speaks about the recent composting grant the City of Dickinson received during the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, at City Hall. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)
Recycling Coordinator Rachel Shumaker speaks about the recent composting grant the City of Dickinson received during the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, at City Hall. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

With the composting grant, the city will purchase a skid steer attachment compost turner for the Dickinson City Landfill and provide the materials needed to rotate the compost for all of the community sites.

Mayor Scott Decker noted that part of the education process with this composting pilot project is to be mindful of surrounding neighbors, a sentiment detailed by Shumaker.

“That’s a big part of it is to learn how to compost properly. I know that the city doesn’t have any ordinance so far that talks about that, but that is one of the things that we do talk about,” Shumaker said. “I, myself, compost in my backyard and my neighbors are pretty okay with it. I haven’t had any issues so far… With the NDSU Research Extension and the Stark Billings County Extension, those guys have a wealth of knowledge to share with the residents on how to compost properly. The biggest thing for this is making a really nice soil amendment. Around here, one of our biggest problems is healthy soil. So this is a good way to do that without having that extra waste in our landfill.”

Currently, the City of Dickinson has three recycling sites and two of which collect yard waste during the summer, but only includes grass and garden trimmings. With this recent composting grant, this will give residents an opportunity to reuse their food waste.

“Now we have to get our committee together and put those next steps into place. Then from there, winter is not really the best time to start composting especially around here. So what we’ll do is we’ll shoot for the spring to get started and get supplies out,” she added.

Moving forward, the City of Dickinson is looking at two additional grants for the Solid Waste and Recycling Program to advance recycling efforts.