Since food scraps and yard trimmings make up nearly one third of the municipal waste stream in Maryland, we challenged Maryland Green Registry members to reducing and composting these wastes and asked them to tell us about it.
Eighty five members, including colleges and universities, restaurants, landscapers and commercial offices, shared their practices and were entered into a prize drawing at the 2015 Maryland Green Registry Annual Awards Event.
The contest is over but the need to reduce and compost these wastes is not. Composting offers enormous benefits in terms of extending landfill capacity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the added bonus of producing a nutrient-rich soil supplement. If you're not composting or collecting organic materials, read more below. Piloting a compost collection program at your workplace is often a good place to start and will give you an idea of the volume of material you have.
Tips and Resources:
Everyone knows the 3 Rs when it comes to waste management: Reduce, Reuse, then Recycle. It's the same idea when it comes to food waste: Reduce, Donate, then Compost. The following guides will help you reduce food waste in the first place and then manage what is left.
Food Waste Reduction
Organizations may contract with haulers to collect food scraps and other organics, which are taken to off-site composting facilities for recycling. Below are examples of organics haulers operating in Maryland.
Businesses and institutions may also choose to compost on site. In-vessel composting systems protect materials from precipitation, require less space, and can control odors if properly managed. One easy way to get started is by collecting coffee grounds and adding them to a worm bin which can be kept indoors or out. The following are some examples of small in-vessel composting systems (bins, tubs, and tumblers):
For organizations with larger quantities of organics, such as universities, larger in-vessel systems are also available. These options may require more space and an additional area for “curing” of the material outside of the vessel. However, they can be particularly beneficial where the organization has a need for finished compost, such as for on-site landscaping activities. Please contact the Maryland Department of the Environment at 410-537-3314 for information on regulatory requirements for larger-scale composting (greater than 5,000 square feet used in support of composting). Also, please ensure that any on-site composting activities comply with local requirements by checking with your county government.
Restaurants and other food service providers often find that starting a composting program leads to a re-evaluation of the plates and utensils they purchase. Depending on the hauler or composting company you contract with, you may be able to throw paper and biodegradeable plates, cups, napkins and utensils in with the food scraps while polystyrene and plastic serviceware must be disposed of separately. There are many options available for paper and compostable products, but remember reusable serviceware is best where possible.