DUNEDIN – City officials are preparing to offer residents a down-to-earth free program that will help protect the environment.

Urban Sustainability Program Coordinator Natalie Gass explained the details of the Dunedin Backyard Compost program to city commissioners at their working session on February 16.

City officials plan to purchase 160 82-gallon containers for $ 40.52 per container to be given away for free to residents taking a 90-minute course followed by a quick quiz. Gass said the total city cost for the program would be approximately $ 8,500 in the first year.

Among the benefits, the program aims to help promote healthy soils, gardens and ecosystems in the city. It is expected that greenhouse gases and waste will be reduced.

City officials said they recognized the efforts of the city of Clearwater in developing an educational composting course that is offered free to the public.

Commissioner John Tornga asked about the benefits of the city providing trash cans as opposed to residents who buy small trash cans at various retail stores for $ 10-20.

Residents don’t have to bring a trash can out of town to participate in the program, but the size of the bin makes a difference, Gass said.

An 82-gallon container holds a lot of material, Gass said.

“If you get it too small, it won’t compost properly and you just won’t have room for your food waste,” she said.

The bins the city will provide have special ventilation that is also required and an open bottom to allow microorganisms to move up and down the columns of compost, she said.

Tornga also asked if there was a reason city officials didn’t want to charge the trash cans.

“We just want it to be open to the public. That way, they can continue doing sustainability at home,” said Gass.

Bill Pickrum, the city’s solid waste division manager, said the program will reduce some of the debris that ends up in the city’s green cans, which residents use for household waste.

Keeping some of the debris out of the green cans can cut the tip fees that the city picks up on daily costs to support solid waste operations, he said.

Gass said that district officials are encouraging cities to run composting programs because this material doesn’t work as well as other materials in their disposal facility.

Neighboring cities with such programs are St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo, and Tampa.

Without education courses, people could improperly compost waste and put it next to a neighbor’s fence, she said.

“If you only have a whole container of food waste, you will attract living things. They will only have odor,” she said.

Pickrum called the process a soft opening.

“Get 160 in inventory. See how it rolls. This isn’t city-wide,” Pickrum said.

Gass expects to start the program in late March or early April.

Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski praised city officials for initiating the program.

She asked what the benefits of composting were for residents.

“It’s just a way to encourage better gardening, better Florida-friendly landscaping, and a way for residents to enjoy the outdoors more,” Gass said.