Lisa Daugherty, owner of Juneau Composts!, uses a front-end loader to move wood chips to used in her year-old business on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Currently located out the road near mile 25, Daugherty is working to lease city land in the Lemon Creek area to expand her business. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lisa Daugherty, owner of Juneau Composts!, uses a front-end loader to move wood chips to used in her year-old business on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Currently located out the road near mile 25, Daugherty is working to lease city land in the Lemon Creek area to expand her business. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Composting business aims to help in fight to make landfill last

City officials supportive of effort to bring business to central location

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Juneau Composts! owner Lisa Daugherty delivers compost every two weeks. She said she delivers compost several times a year, not every two weeks.

The clock is ticking for Juneau’s landfill.

Eric Vance, the manager of Juneau’s Capitol Disposal Landfill, estimated that the landfill will likely be full in about 20-23 years unless the city finds ways to divert trash elsewhere. Then Juneau will have to start shipping its trash out of town.

One Juneau resident, Lisa Daugherty, has talked passionately about how composting food and yard waste could help extend the life of the landfill. She started her business, Juneau Composts!, in 2017 and is on the cusp of moving to a more central location.

This summer, Daugherty applied to lease City and Borough of Juneau land for her composting service (which composted an estimated 32,000 pounds of food waste in 2017). Her current location is about 25 miles out the road, making it difficult for people to come drop off food or yard waste.

Her original intent was to lease a gravel pit on Fish Creek Road on Douglas, but she said someone at the city proposed leasing a gravel pit in Lemon Creek next to Home Depot instead. Daugherty was elated at that suggestion, as that location is central, near the landfill and away from houses.

“That’s one of the reasons I wanted a centralized spot and a spot that was more industrial rather than having neighbors is because I want to accept drop-off of yard debris so people have a place to bring their brush leaves grass all that stuff,” Daugherty said.

Composting is the process of breaking down organic matter into soil. Daugherty has perfected her method over the span of 10 years, figuring out which materials are best to mix in with the waste to help speed up the decomposition process.

The Lands and Resources Committee passed a motion of support this past Monday to work on a lease with Juneau Composts! The CBJ Assembly and the Planning Commission will have their chance to consider the application and approve or deny it.

Daugherty started her business last spring with three regular customers. Now, she picks up waste from around 140 people and eight businesses in town. She processes about 1,700 pounds of waste per week, she said, and delivers batches of fresh soil to customers several times a year. People can sign up for curbside service by going to www.juneaucomposts.com.

“I think Juneau is way behind the curve in managing trash,” Daugherty said. “Twenty states have organics bans, so you can’t bring your leaves, your brush and your grass to the landfill, and we have a very finite amount of time that our landfill’s going to be open before we’re shipping our trash south like Haines and other communities. Well, what can we do to address it? There are very simple things. Composting is one of them.”

Vance said it’s hard to estimate just how much a composting operation could extend the landfill’s lifespan, but to those trying to figure out a solution, any efforth elps. CBJ Lands Manager Greg Chaney said this would be the first time Juneauites would have a centralized location to drop off their compostable materials.

“I think everyone will agree, we need to get a handle on our solid waste stream,” Chaney said. “The landfill has a lifespan. Once we get to the end of that, we don’t really have a plan. This is a good way to extend the life of the landfill.”

Composting is listed in the CBJ’s 2016 Solid Waste Action Plan, listing the possibility of starting a composting program by 2018. That hasn’t materialized yet, but some CBJ staff members are actively encouraging people and organizations to consider composting.

Michele Elfers, the program manager for the CBJ’s Recycleworks program, has spoken to the CBJ Assembly many times in recent years about the importance of diverting waste away from the landfill. She said the city doesn’t have a composting program but she encourages people to compost on their own.

Elfers said Harborview Elementary has had a composting program in the past that city staff members have helped with, and they’re hoping to get that program back up and running. Elfers said organic waste takes up a great deal of room in the landfill, and if even some of that can go elsewhere, it would help make the landfill last.

“It’s recognized as a piece to the bigger picture,” Elfers said.

CBJ Park Maintenance Supervisor Ben Patterson estimated that the department composts a few tons a year, mostly of flowers, leaves and wood chips. Patterson said they try to repurpose as much of their waste as they can, but they just don’t have the space or time to do it on a large scale. He said he wishes the city had a centralized program to encourage people to compost more.

Juneau Composts! isn’t the only way for people to help out, as composting is easy to do at home where people can turn their leftover food into soil for their gardens.

“Everybody can just compost right where they are and then there’s a final product that’s beneficial,” Daugherty said, “and I think skipping the whole barge ride is pretty significant, and reducing carbon emissions for sure.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


Lisa Daugherty, owner of Juneau Composts!, talks about her year-old business on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Currently located out the road near mile 25, Daugherty is working to lease city land in the Lemon Creek area to expand her business. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lisa Daugherty, owner of Juneau Composts!, talks about her year-old business on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Currently located out the road near mile 25, Daugherty is working to lease city land in the Lemon Creek area to expand her business. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lisa Daugherty, owner of Juneau Composts!, talks about her year-old business on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Currently located out the road near mile 25, Daugherty is working to lease city land in the Lemon Creek area to expand her business. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lisa Daugherty, owner of Juneau Composts!, talks about her year-old business on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Currently located out the road near mile 25, Daugherty is working to lease city land in the Lemon Creek area to expand her business. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lisa Daugherty, owner of Juneau Composts!, shows her finished, screened product on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Currently located out the road near mile 25, Daugherty is working to lease city land in the Lemon Creek area to expand her business. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lisa Daugherty, owner of Juneau Composts!, shows her finished, screened product on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Currently located out the road near mile 25, Daugherty is working to lease city land in the Lemon Creek area to expand her business. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lisa Daugherty, owner of Juneau Composts!, holds one of her residential buckets to hold food scraps on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Daugherty currently picks up compost from 140 homes. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lisa Daugherty, owner of Juneau Composts!, holds one of her residential buckets to hold food scraps on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Daugherty currently picks up compost from 140 homes. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of July 13

Here’s what to expect this week.

Residents of Strasbaugh Apartments on Gastineau Avenue and others in the neighborhood wait outside a sealed-off area Sunday morning after a landslide triggered by heavy rain hit the building. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Landslide triggered by heavy rain damages apartment building on Gastineau Avenue

Officials close street as multiple mudslides reported; up to 4” more rain forecast by Monday night.

Shelley McNurney (right) and Tami Hesseltine examine a muticolor storage shelf in the gym of the former Floyd Dryden Middle School on Saturday, where surplus items from the school were being sold to residents and given away to nonprofit entities. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
No more pencils, no more bookshelves: Floyd Dryden works to clear out surplus items large and small

Furniture, microscopes, pianos among gymful of items being given away or sold by shut-down school.

Former President Donald Trump is surrounded by Secret Service agents at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa, on Saturday. Trump was rushed off stage at rally after sounds like shots; the former president was escorted into his motorcade at his rally in Butler, Pa., a rural town about an hour north of Pittsburgh. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Trump rally shooting investigated as assassination attempt; gunman identified

One rally attendee and the shooter dead, two other spectators critically injured.

Looking like a gray turtle, an automated mower cuts grass in front of Thunder Mountain Middle School with boxes stacked in a classroom window beyond. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Random adventures of robo-mowers…now performing again this summer at Juneau’s schools

Four pillow-sized bots resembling turtles with tiny razor-sharp blades provide class for the grass.

Disney Williams (right) orders coffee from Lorelai Bingham from the Flying Squirrel coffee stand at Juneau International Airport on Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
New coffee stand at airport stirs up heated dispute about having proper authorization to operate

Fans of Flying Squirrel Espresso praise location, hours; officials say FAA violations could be costly.

Nano Brooks and Emily Mesch file for candidacy on Friday at the City and Borough of Juneau Municipal Clerk’s office in City Hall. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
City and Borough of Juneau regular municipal election candidate filing period opens

So far, most vie for Assembly District 2 seat — mayor, Board of Education, and District 1 also open.

Killah Priest performs at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center in December 2019. (Photo courtesy of Lance Mitchell)
Killah Priest sets new record with Alaskan artists on ‘Killah Borealis’

Wu-Tang Clan rapper seeks to lift Alaskan voices and culture in his return performance to Juneau

Most Read