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Billings landfill plans to turn human waste into perfect topsoil

Billings Public Works unveils composting plans
Posted at 5:40 PM, Sep 09, 2022

BILLINGS — In Billings, yard waste and human waste that’s flushed down the toilet eventually ends up at the Billings landfill. It takes up critical air space as the landfill fills up, but that’s about to change thanks to the city’s new $2.5 million planned composting program.

The composting program is set to be located south of the current landfill site, right across Hillcrest Road in a now vacant field. Once up and going, mounds of bio-solids, which are already trucked to the landfill daily, will land on a concrete pad at the composting site.

“Bio-solids is a fancy word for poop from the wastewater treatment plant,” said Kyle Foreman, City of Billings Public Works Solid Waste Superintendent.

The idea is to divert 3 to 6 truckloads of human waste every day from the Billings landfill to the composting pile, right across the road.

Foreman says the project has two phases, with phase one handling up to 25,000 tons of compostable material. While that may sound like a bunch of poop piling up, the tonnage is also set to include 12,000 tons of yard waste and double the capacity in phase two.

“If I can pull those 12,000 tons out, move it over here (to the composting site,) that’s 12,000 tons of garage that can go in the same amount of airspace, which keeps that facility over there, and not across the street,” said Foreman.

Billings Public Works says composting is set to expand the lifespan of the landfill by as much as a decade, and it's a big step towards someday being able to accept food waste from residents and restaurants, something already happening in cities across the state.

“We are different than Bozeman, Missoula and Helena, which is fine, but we’ve got to understand that this is not an endless resource out here. This will fill up,” Foreman said of the Billings landfill.

Bozeman-based Eco-Montana distributes compostable to-go boxes to hundreds of restaurants statewide, but in Billings, the list is very short.

“In Billings we send stuff to Well Pared. I know that composting is not up and running or a really big deal there yet, so we’re hoping that that changes soon,” says Heidi Noyes, Chief Eco-Maniec at Eco Montana.

The landfill project goes to bid this fall and construction is set for winter or early spring. Once functional, it only takes two weeks to turn poo into perfect topsoil.

“It’s a great garden amendment. If you’re a gardener, this is the stuff for you,” said Foreman.