By Cassie McClure
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 10/09/20.
After Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Deputy Director Solid Waste Robin Lawrence scraped off the top layer of the compost mulch, she stuck her hand into the pungent pile. She was happy to feel warmth. Members of the New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) Skeen Compost Club (Club) lined up to eagerly do the same.
Warmth meant that the compost pile was “cooking”, breaking down the organic material into the beginning of high-quality mulch being made from green yard waste at the Foothills Landfill Composting Facility (FLCF), formerly known as the Old Foothills Landfill, at 555 S. Sonoma Ranch Boulevard.
It was the first tour that the Club came out to do, in order to get an idea about how a large-scale compost mulching process happens.
“We compost with the help of the NMSU campus, in particular Café 100 West, which is a food laboratory where students learn to cook and operate a restaurant,” said Angie Swanson, Club president. In five years, approximately 2,500 pounds of food waste from student, staff, and faculty lunches have been composted and diverted from the landfill.
Swanson and other members were enthusiastic about learning more and possibly helping LCU by participating in the composting process at FLCF. Lawrence said that there might be an opportunity for internships in the future.
Residents can drop off their green waste, loose or in clear plastic bags, at the facility or place materials/bags out for the Green Grappler during scheduled pickups through LCU solid waste service. The composted mulch is available for free to residents.
“Composted mulch is very useful in dust abatement and erosion control,” said Rhonda Diaz, LCU water conservation program coordinator. “It also provides great ground cover to hold moisture longer, which in turn helps to conserve water and promote healthy soil.”
LCU can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: LCU Water Conservation Program Coordinator Rhonda Diaz looks on as Club members Kelt Cooper and Angie Swanson dig into the compost mulch with LCU Deputy Director Solid Waste Robin Lawrence.
PHOTO 2: Club member Julia Miller gathers samples for a class to text the nutrients in LCU’s compost mulch. Mille, a NMSU senior in Environmental Science, hopes to use the samples throughout the semester and share results at the end with LCU.