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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Your Not Going to Throw that in the Landfill--- Are You?

Howard County has been testing the composting of food scraps and hopes to eventually have this system Countywide.

There are a great many reasons to compost food scraps, covering a range of interests from financial to environmental. Food sent to a landfill is a wasted resource – it takes up space, costs money to bury, and creates methane (a greenhouse gas) as it decomposes in a landfill. Composting not only avoids these problems, but the finished compost is a valuable soil amendment, an alternative to synthetic fertilizers, and may help reduce runoff and water pollution problems. To encourage residents to compost at home, the County has given away over 5,700 free compost bins to residents, partnered with the Master Gardeners at compost demonstration sites, and included compost information on the County website. Despite these efforts, a recently conducted telephone survey on County residents recycling habits found that only 24% of residents compost at home.
Over the past 5 years, the County was very fortunate and was able to extend contracted trash disposal fees, thus securing a lower-than-average tipping fee for residential trash. The current contract with secured pricing is soon coming to an end and it is reasonable to project a substantial increase in the tipping fee. In anticipation of this increase, recycling staff were directed to find ways to reduce the amount of material sent for disposal, specifically through food waste reduction. To augment the County’s successful curbside single stream recycling program, the implementation of a curbside food scrap collection program would be the next logical step to reduce the amount of material sent to a landfill, thereby keeping trash disposal costs down.

According to information posted on the Colorado State University site “to make traditional compost, alternate different types of shredded plant materials in 6- to 8-inch layers. Layering helps compost reach the correct nitrogen balance. Use equal parts by volume of dry and green plant materials in the overall mix. Use caution when you add layers of fine green plant wastes such as grass clippings. Grass mats easily and prevents water from moving through the mass. Use 2-inch layers of fine materials or process them through a machine shredder. Alternate fine materials with woody plant prunings to prevent clogging the machine and to create an equal balance of dry and green materials.

Traditional composting includes soil as one of the layers. While soil can serve as a source of microbes to "inoculate" plant wastes, research has found that the microorganisms that break down plants also are present on the surface of the leaves and stems. It's natural for some soil to cling to pulled weeds and uprooted vegetable and flower plants. When you add large amounts of soil, you increase the weight, which makes composting difficult and less efficient. Large amounts of soil also can suffocate microorganisms. Soil less composting is often practiced. Add water to the compost after every few layers of material.”
The Virginia Cooperative Extension has this to say about building a compost bin, “if you plan to produce compost regularly, consider a permanent compost bin. For convenience and aesthetics, you can choose from numerous commercial composters or construct your own from wooden planks, concrete blocks, used freight pallets, hardware cloth, or chicken-wire.

Before purchasing a commercial composter, determine if it will work effectively in your landscape. It should be well built, economical according to your needs, easy to assemble, and have easy access for turning the compost. It should also be large enough to handle all the leaves in your yard.
Some gardeners build separate bins for each stage of the compost process - one for fresh plant refuse, another for the actively composting pile, and a third for the finished compost. When building your own bin, keep one side open for easy access. Also, leave spaces between blocks or planks for aeration - air is essential to the rapid decay of organic materials. The size of the compost pile determines how effective it will be; piles smaller than 27 cubic feet (3 X 3 X 3) do not hold sufficient heat for the composting to be effective, and piles larger than 125 cubic feet (5 X 5 X 5) do not allow sufficient oxygen to reach the center. Be sure your compost pile is a manageable size.”

To learn more about composting you can attend one of the Master Gardeners demonstrations at one of the following locations:
Saturday, August 6 • 9 am • Alpha Ridge Landfill
Saturday, August 6 • 9 am • Centennial Park
Saturday, August 13 • 11 am • Howard County Conservancy
Thursday August 11 • 7pm • Schooley Mill Park
Tuesday, August 16 • 7 pm • Centennial Park
Saturday, August 20 • 9 am • Alpha Ridge Landfill
Saturday, August 27 • 9 am • Schooley Mill Park

Finally I have always promoted the Columbia Freecycle as a way to get rid of just about a No matter what you have, or what condition it's in, don't throw it out! Nothing is too big or too small, too old or too new -- anything that can be reused or even repurposed can be recycled here! As long as it's free, legal, age-appropriate, and given away with no strings attached.
Groups are local, so your personal residence must be in Howard County Maryland. We serve ALL of Howard County EXCEPT for the areas below.

If you live in one of these areas, please click on that link to join your local group:
Zip 20723 east of Rt. 29
Howard County west of Rt. 97
Outside Howard Countynything you are thinking of throwing out. Someone out there is looking for your item.

1 comment:

Anne said...

We made use of one of the county's free bins. Our huge garden thrives thanks to our huge compost pile. Maybe another thing we could do in the county would be something like a ride share match, only a compost pile matching program. Find a neighbor with a pile to donate your scraps to. This might be especially nice for the apartment and condo dwellers. Anyone want to bring stuff to my pile? Or eat some of my tomatoes that are currently taking over the kitchen counter?