Composting options – centralized and home-based

Composting options – centralized and home-based


Some food waste is inevitable.  No matter how diligent we are in using all the edible food we purchase or grow, some waste will be produced.  This may include apple cores, tea bags, coffee grounds, orange peels and such.  Have you considered composting?  Composting is an accelerated decomposition process carried on by microbes in an environment with plenty of oxygen (aerobic environment).   Several things happen during composting.  First, microbes consume some of the energy in the food waste to grow and reproduce.  They, like us, give off carbon dioxide as a waste product.  Second, microbes convert some of the energy on the food waste as heat.   Lastly, a residue remains after the microbes have lived their lives or are unable to use any of the remaining material as a food source.  We call this residue, “compost”, a valuable soil amendment

Home Composting

Perhaps you’d like to compost the food waste (and yard waste) your family produces but you do not know how to get started.  University of Maryland Extension has very informative web page, How to Make Compost at Home (  Howard County Department of Public works also has an informative booklet, Howard County Home Composting Guide.

The Howard County Department of Public Works Bureau of Environmental Services office (410-799-2175) provides compost bins to Howard County residents.  (Their offices are currently closed to the public because of COVID-19 restrictions.)

Centralized Composting

If you live in some areas in Howard County, you may be able to participate in Howard County Department of Public Works (HoCo-DPW) Feed the Green Bin program, a centralized food waste collection and composting initiative.   Details about the pro­grams, including an online search to see if your residence is located within the food scrap collection boundary, can be found at  HoCo-DPW also has a 2-page info sheet on food and yard waste compost process, Howard County Food Scrap and Yard Trim Composting Program .

If you live outside the food scrap collection boundary, you may drop off food waste at the Alpha Ridge Landfill.  Food waste may also be dropped off at MOM Organic Market in Jessup where compost collection bins are located right inside their front door.  Food waste deposited at MOM’s is regularly picked up and composted at a commercial composting facility

Composting versus landfilling

How we dispose of our food waste matters!  The only greenhouse gas produced during the decomposition of food waste in an environment like a properly managed composting system is carbon dioxide.  Compare that to throwing it in the garbage where it end up in the landfill.  Waste in landfills is compacted and quickly becomes devoid of oxygen (anaerobic).  In this condition, both methane and carbon dioxide are produced as the food waste (and other organic materials like grass clippings and leaves) decomposes.   On a 20-year timeframe methane has 86 times more Greenhouse Warming Potential (GWP) than carbon dioxide.


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