The Fort Smith Board of Directors remained unsold Tuesday on a proposed ordinance that would require yard waste collected by the city to be in biodegradable paper bags instead of plastic ones.

The board had opted not to vote on the ordinance Sept. 5 when the Sanitation Department brought it to the board for approval and asked that it instead discuss it further at a study session.

The reason for the proposed ordinance is so yard waste can be used to augment the topsoil that the Sanitation Department is required by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to put over the landfill six days a week, according to a memo from Deputy City Administrator and Interim Sanitation Director Jeff Dingman to City Administrator Carl Geffken.

The department gets topsoil from “borrow pits” on the landfill property and would eventually have to start purchasing topsoil for approximately $4,500 a day once it runs out. An alternative is to use excess yard waste, which can qualify as Alternative Daily Cover (ADC) when turned into compost material, but cannot contain plastic. Doing so would also solve another problem — the department is receiving more yard waste than its facility’s compost/yard waste pad can handle, according to the memo. The waste pad is designed to handle 4,500 tons of yard waste/compost material per year, and, for the last three years, the department has averaged 7,395 tons of yard waste at the facility. So far this year, the department has taken 6,013 tons of yard waste material.

Vice Mayor and At-large Director Kevin Settle said the city should look into more options with ADEQ, such as asking if the city would be required to cover the landfill if it stayed open at all times.

At-large Director Tracy Pennartz wondered if biodegradable bags should be voluntary.

"Is it worthwhile to try to do it on a voluntary basis first or are we just going to say it's required?" Pennartz asked.

She said she uses the biodegradable paper bags voluntarily.

Likewise, Ward 2 Director Andre Good said he could not see himself supporting a mandate requiring people to use paper bags.