BALTIMORE, MD (April 22, 2013) – The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) will mark its celebration of Earth Day by offering its 900-plus employees the option of composting food waste at its Montgomery Park headquarters in Baltimore City. The Department expects the program, in its first year, to divert more than six tons of waste that would have otherwise gone to landfills.

Composting has many benefits. It is an effective, inexpensive and natural way to handle organic waste. When organics are composted, they become natural soil additives for use on lawns and gardens. This product also helps the environment by improving soil in a way that can help control erosion and reduce polluted stormwater runoff. And it is inherently local, providing jobs and other local economic benefits.

Also, by recycling materials that would otherwise end up in landfills, composting reduces the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. 

"Composting is the next frontier in recycling for Maryland," said MDE Secretary Robert M. Summers. "I am proud that MDE employees are leading the way on this food scrap composting initiative. If we want to change citizens' actions we need to lead by example. It is my hope that MDE's actions will encourage food composting at more State agencies, private businesses and in our own homes."

Last year, MDE disposed of 53 tons of waste at Montgomery Park. With the new composting program in place, MDE expects to decrease the amount of total waste by about 11 percent in 2013.

Maryland's composting rate for food scraps lags behind recycling rates for many other types of materials, but the practice is growing significantly. In 2010, about 5 percent of food scraps were composted in Maryland. The comparable rate for 2011 was about 13 percent.

Maryland has been working on ways to promote composting and to ensure that it is being done in way that protects the environment and public health. The Maryland General Assembly recently passed House Bill 1440. The bill authorizes MDE to develop regulations that are clear and specific to composting operations. MDE is working with stakeholders to develop these regulations as soon as possible.

MDE has contracted with Waste Management, Inc., to provide a weekly collection of the composted materials. MDE will provide a composting bin in each employee break room with guidance on what materials can be composted

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