Wednesday, December 19, 2012

States compost roadkill, as farmers do dead stock

"Roadkill disposal is a serious problem nationally, as stricter environmental regulations close burial pits, landfills run out of space, and many rendering plants shut down," Eliza Murphy of High Country News reports. The problem can be a burden in rural areas, where roadkill is more likely to occur. But a pilot program in Oregon, in which roadkill is composted, could provide a national solution. (HCN photo: Working compost site in Oregon)

Composting is becoming a popular alternative for disposal of roadkill, as Montana, Washington and New York already have working composting sites. It cost the Oregon Department of Transportation $11,600 to develop its site in the eastern part of the state and get permits in 2010. It cost just $6,500 a year to operate the site. About 500 deer, and hundreds of other miscellaneous animals, have been "transformed into nutrient-rich soil conditioner" so far in Oregon. The project might eventually create enough compost to use for roadside planting. But right now, it only produces enough to keep the compost starter pile sustained, Murphy writes. Still, the site is successful enough to remain the official method for roadkill disposal in eastern Oregon, a very dry and rural place.

"This works just like a regular compost at home," ODOT's Michael Bennett told Murphy. "You put the carcass on a pile, keep it moist and aerated for several months, and it cooks and decomposes." When roadkill arrives, workers place it on a layer of wood chips close to another carcass to create more heat. They sprinkle it with a layer of starter compost, then another layer of wood chips, then they turn it for months until it's all decomposed. Some farmers and ranchers all over the country use the method for disposing of dead livestock. (Read more)

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