Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not - Curbside Composting

In my previous post, Do Environmentalists Need Shrinks, I mentioned how I am sometimes almost obsessive about planet polluters. This trait really rears its ugly head when I see the kind of things that people throw away. Good, usable furniture left at the curb for the garbage man to pick up, for instance, when a local thrift store would probably love to have it. Or a bin full of plastic garden pots thrown into the trash when local chain stores like Lowes and Home Depot will willingly take them and recycle them. And when I go to a party or picnic, it sometimes takes all of my will power to keep myself from poking through plastic-bag lined garbage bins to remove perfectly recyclable cans and bottles.

So far, I haven’t gotten bad enough to dig through anyone’s trash for things that would make good compost. And if Howard County, Maryland’s idea for curbside compost pickup takes off and is adopted by other jurisdictions, I may never have to.

Compost is such a wonderful thing for a garden, and almost any green food scrap, plant waste or paper product, can be utilized to help make this garden goodie. But it is estimated that, in 2009, over 33 million tons of food waste and 13 million tons of yard waste ended up in municipal landfills. (Source)

Although most “green gardeners” have learned to use their own waste products to create compost, what about the many people that don’t have a garden or want to deal with compost?

Howard County is looking for volunteer households in the Elkridge and Ellicott City areas to participate in their new food scrap collection pilot program! Participants will receive a special food scrap collection cart that will be emptied weekly on recycling day. Their list of items, which are acceptable to recycle, include a few things that surprised me, including bread and other baked goods and pizza boxes.

The collected food scraps will  eventually be composted and turned into a soil amendment. If successful, this program could reduce trash sent to the landfill in Howard County by 23%.

Another interesting fact that I read on their website (but never thought about before – I guess because we compost everything) is that composting food scraps is much better than using a garbage disposal for two reasons. 1) It saves water and 2) garbage disposal use sends excess nutrients that are expensive to treat to the wastewater treatment facilities.

If you live in Howard County, I urge you to support this program. For more information, visit the Food Scrap Recycling Page on the Howard County website.

Of course, DC area residents can have their own curbside composting through Compost Cab. Compost Cab will provide you with a bin, collect your organics and deliver them to a local urban farm for composting. There is an $8.00 per week charge for their services. BUT (and here's the really great thing) CompostCab will even help you recycle your compostable materials at parties, picnics, weddings and other special events!! With Compost Cab, I can once again attend parties angst free!

What’s in if for you? According to their website “Cleaner air. Less waste. A smaller carbon footprint. A greener home or business. A stronger community.”

And, of course, you don’t have to worry about me coming by and picking through your garbage.


  1. At my church we are discussing how to design the tops of waste containers to help people think about putting the recyclables in one bin, compostables in another, and trash (if you must) in a third. Also, putting kitchen scraps in the trash can generate methane in landfills, contributing to anthropogenic climate change.

  2. This is a great to learn that curbside composting has pioneers in this region.

    I can relate to your sentiments at parties, etc. where perfectly recyclable containers are put in the trash–it feels wrong to the core.


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