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History of the WY Compost Project
West Yellowstone Compost Facility
In the late 1970s discussions began to take place about closing West Yellowstone’s landfill.  The contributing factors were:

By 1979 the developed landfill north of West Yellowstone was nearing capacity. The landfill was located on National Forest land through a lease agreement with the Waste District.
Black and Grizzly bears had become accustomed to feeding on garbage at the landfill. In 1973 the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) was initiated to study bear management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, including the species’ dependency upon human garbage
The landfill’s water monitoring system began to show concentrations of leachate that could threaten the water table.

In 1983, the landfill was capped and the current Transfer Station was built next to it. The 13 acre compound was surrounded with a buried chain-link/electric fence to keep the bears out. The Transfer Station was designed to handle approximately 1,500 tons per year of waste from the town of West Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park, and the surrounding Hebgen Basin region. Today, nearly 6,000 tons per year is generated in the same region.

Initially, trash tipped at the Transfer Station was hauled to an unlined landfill 50 miles away. When that landfill closed around 1990, the trash began to be hauled to the next closest landfill, 120 miles away from the Transfer Station. During the 1990s growth in the area’s resident population, and Park visitors, began to increase tonnage and put a strain on the small Transfer Station.  

In 1997, Yellowstone National Park celebrated its 125th anniversary and Park Administrators asked, “What can be done to preserve and protect Yellowstone for the next 125 years?” The result was the creation of a movement called “The Greening of Yellowstone.” This movement motivated the Park to implement a wide variety of pollution prevention, alternative fuel, recycling and waste reduction projects. Landfilling was determined to be the least favorable method of waste disposal. A waste characterization study conducted in 1994 had indicated that 60-75% of the Park’s waste stream was compostable, with 40% being food waste. Coupled with the fact that waste was hauled up to 200 miles to landfills and transfer stations outside of the Park, it was evident that large scale composting might be feasible.

Plans for the Compost Facility began to develop. The idea was that up to 50 tons per day of Mixed Solid Waste (MSW) would be dumped at the Compost Facility. The organic portion of the MSW would be removed and composted. The remaining non-compostable material would be minimal and, therefore, the volume transported to the landfill would be significantly reduced. Since the cost of hauling trash to the distant landfill would be reduced, possibly the Transfer Station’s tipping fee of $125.95/ton could be lowered for the facility’s users.

The project went out for bid, and in August of 2001, Engineered Compost Systems (ECS) from Seattle, WA and Montana-based Dick Anderson Construction were awarded the contract to design, supply, and install the process equipment. The facility design was then finalized based on the specified equipment. The total project capital budget was $4,200,000, secured through Montana’s State Revolving Fund Program. Dick Anderson Construction began site prep in September 2002 and, thanks to a mild winter by West Yellowstone standards, continued until completion in June 2003.  The West Yellowstone Compost Facility officially opened on July 1, 2003, and the production of compost began.

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