Last weekend, Joe Wainio, a reader and local resident, did what he thought was the right thing. He was worried about the state’s drought, so he began tearing out his front yard. He wanted to replace it with drought-tolerant plants and rocks.

He shook as much dirt as he could from the grass, dumped it in a pickup truck and drove to the Miramar Landfill. With the city and Mayor Jerry Sanders preaching the virtues of water conservation, Wainio figured he’d get to dump for free.

Not so, an attendant told him. Dumping the grass would cost $43, Wainio said he was told. While there’s no charge for dumping green waste at the landfill, it does cost to dump sod — the clumps of grass with dirt in it.

Wainio protested. Another attendant offered him a better deal: $30. Wainio still wasn’t happy. He explained why in an e-mail:

It didn’t seem to make sense that the mayor and other local officials were urging residents to conserve water, but that rather than offering incentives to expedite the process, the bureaucracy was poised to penalize my attempts to cooperate.

Wainio left in a huff. He returned Sunday with the same load, was waved through and dumped for free. After being quoted three difference prices ($43, $30 and $0), Wainio was confused. He e-mailed me:

I hope you can shed some light on this issue with a little investigation.

My little investigation is over. Stephen Grealy, the city’s recycling manager, explained the city’s policy in an e-mail. He said the city has considered accepting sod at the Miramar Greenery (the part of the landfill that produces mulch and compost). But the soil inhibits composting, he wrote, making it a bad source of mulch and compost.

Grealy offered this advice to homeowners hoping to tear out their yards:

[F]irst and foremost reduce the amount of waste that might otherwise go to the Miramar Landfill. In the case of residents interested in removing sod from their landscaping, this means it is better to use a mulch or some other product to kill the grass and then to incorporate the dead sod as a soil amendment (rototilling). This will increase the organic matter of the soil, reduce waste, and increase the water holding capacity of the soil. This would provide a better foundation for the new drought tolerant plantings.


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