South Bend eyes private management for Organic Resources

The search is on for a private firm to manage and market a city owned facility in South Bend.

This time, it’s not the zoo—it’s the Organic Resources operation.

“The city picks up the yard waste and it comes out here for processing and then there’s a program where people can come and get it free,” said Al Greek, Division Director of Environmental Services for South Bend. “We don’t have a good marketing plan, no; we’re looking for some help.”

The city spends about $1.3 million to run Organic Resources, while the facility typically brings in about $70,000 in revenue.

The city has been storing leaves, grass clippings, and tree limbs on site since the city wide leaf pickup program began in 1993.

Molehills have become mountains as the material comes in constantly by the truckload, and leaves slowly one shovelful at a time.

The city is looking for a private firm to take over. One that, hopefully, would be able to move the many mulchy mountains of merchandise piled up on site.

“You know, there are places in the nation where compost is a very valuable resource. Currently in the Midwest, it isn’t as great as some areas of the country. Maybe there’s a market out there that we don’t know about,” said Greek.

Unfortunately, South Bend’s compost would be more valuable if city residents weren’t so intent on using plastic bags. The plastic is impossible to get rid of, even after the material has been ground and screened.

The amount of material now on site totals an estimated 130,000 cubic yards, which is enough to fill 5,000 semi-trucks.

If it turns out that there is no way to sell the material, or give it away, the city may have to pay to have it hauled away.

“We took a look at what it might cost to clean up some of the backlog material and there were several different alternatives given but the cheapest one was about $2.5 million.

There’s no guarantee that a private firm will end up running Organic Resources.

Right now, the city is still seeking proposals and expects to hear from as many as five interested companies.

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