Cedar Rapids Wants Garlic Mustard Out of YARDY Carts

By Forrest Saunders, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - An invasive plant has taken root in Cedar Rapids. Officials are worried it could spread through the city compost.

For at least 19 years, the Solid Waste Agency has been taking the yard waste in Cedar Rapids YARDY carts and turning it into compost. They give out about 30,000 tons a year.

"You can tell, there's no question it's quality," said Cecilio Tamayo, who stopped by to pick up a truck load of compost, Wednesday.

There's a worry garlic mustard could ruin that reputation, though. The plant is European and grows full and fast, stealing sun from other plants. It's been spreading across the US since 1868. First spotted in New York, it's now been seen in all but 12 states.

Cedar Rapids officials are concerned its seeds could get into the compost mix and spread.

"We don't want to see this sprouting up in somebody's new lawn or somebody's garden," said Joe Horaney, with Solid Waste Agency. "It causes a problem. It's something that you have to deal with. If you don't want to use chemicals on your lawn, you're pulling it by hand."

Measures to protect against the seeds already exist. Before yard waste is compost, it sits in piles outside and literally cooks. Piles get to 150 to 170 degrees. The concern is that might not be hot enough to cook garlic mustard seeds. Officials remain confident it is, but just in case, for a second year, Cedar Rapids is telling folks to keep garlic mustard out of YARDY carts so they don't end up in compost.

"We want to make sure we protect the quality of our compost and keep those seeds, as much as possible, out of the compost facility," said Megan Murphy with Cedar Rapids Utilities Communications.

The city said to put garlic mustard in garbage bags, then GARBY carts. Don't get confused. It's easy. Yard waste, still goes in YARDY carts, with the exception of garlic mustard. It now goes in the GARBY cart.

Typically, the state of Iowa won't allow yard waste in landfills. But local officials said they've made a special exception to keep garlic mustard under control.

Want to get a closer look? Head to this link: http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/plants/garlicmustard.shtml
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