Robert Treviño winds his city-issued truck through 20-foot-plus high piles of brush – grinded and raw – at the McAllen Composting Facility.
The city’s renewable resource manager oversees a facility that annually sells 25,000 bags of compost and mulch, and also hauls and delivers products all over South Texas. It’s a valuable commodity among growers and gardeners for the nutrients and microbial activity it provides to soils for plant use and development.
The piles ready for processing are everywhere on the 60-acre city site. McAllen collects 250,000 cubic yards of brush every year from its residents and commercial users. It will all make its way here to the composting facility where it will go through a process from being raw brush to being grinded. Disposed citrus are also added to put nutrients into the product.
The revenues generated by the sale of 40-pound bags of compost and mulch pay for the operation of the city facility. Of even greater value is the immense amount of waste tonnage the facility recycles does not end up at a city landfill. The compost facility reduces the carbon footprint while also saving the city $500,000 in landfill costs.
“It’s a way of giving back to the environment,” Treviño said. “It completes the cycle in a very productive way. We’re going green.”
McAllen leads the way
McAllen is perhaps the most progressive city in the Rio Grande Valley when it comes to being environmentally friendly. It is unique among area cities in providing weekly and comprehensive pickup of recyclable items from its residences and neighborhoods. It also has the compost facility on the far side of North 29th Street (Rooth Road) just south of Monte Cristo Road. It’s the only one of its kind south of San Antonio.
It’s a busy place. City trucks rumble in and out all day, bringing brush from throughout McAllen. Large pieces of equipment grind and refine the brush to break down the roughage into finer particles. Donations of disposed citrus from Wal-Mart and H-E-B stores in McAllen come to the site. It is dumped on the refined piles to add nitrogen, potassium and other valuable minerals to the mix.
The McAllen facility processes more than 15,000 yards of compost yearly. The product sells in 40-pound bags for prices ranging from $1.75 to $2.15 in addition to the deliveries made throughout the region.
“We saw the potential to offer an excellent product at an affordable price,” said Elvira Alonzo, the city’s public works director. “We’re a one-stop shop.”
Treviño is enthusiastic when describing the process. He explains the details of the steps taken over a nine-to-12 month period to produce the compost and mulch products. The addition of water to the product as it matures speeds up the biological decomposing process. Heat must be monitored and kept within good levels thus ensuring the best quality.
“Our residents make all of this possible,” Treviño said of the taxpayer-funded site. “As long as they do, we’re willing to put our heart and soul into it.”