Regulation can be a powerful business stimulus. For the Town of Lexington, Massachusetts, state regulation proved to be a huge municipal benefit as well. When the Massachusetts yard waste recycling mandate took effect in 1987, the visionary leaders in Lexington converted an outdated, unused 30-acre landfill into a composting site to eliminate transfer costs for all the green waste they were collecting. Thirty years later, the operation has become a profit machine, effectively flipping hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenses to the other side of their balance sheet.
Converting Costs to Revenues
Kerry Weaver, operations manager of the site, emphasizes the benefits that organics recycling has generated.
"This is a completely self-supporting operation that produces a positive cash flow for the city," Kerry shares. "All our labour and equipment investments come from our revenues, and we're still able to give back to the budget."
He says residents also gain the benefit of having access to an organics recycling yard. "Residents can of course drop off material at no charge," continues Kerry. "The compost we produce is then sold back into the community to landscapers and individuals, so all those organics are eventually returned to our land."
Space, time and cost
Back in 2016, city leaders had a new vision and voted to convert five and a half acres of the compost site into a solar farm which generates nearly 2.2 MW of electricity to help offset the cost of powering the municipal buildings around town. While that outcome is obviously in the best interest of the city overall, the loss of space proved challenging to the compost operation.