City composting nearly suspended, on tentative basis

BY BRANDIE PETERSON

Takoma Park’s popular food waste composting program was in jeopardy of being put on a month-long hiatus this week, but the city worked with a local processing facility to keep the program afloat.

The news came during the Monday Nov. 10 city council meeting.

“We were just told today by Prince George’s County that they plan to put a four week hold on accepting any additional food waste because of capacity issues at their facility,” said Public Works Director Daryl Braithwaite.

Since then, the city reached an agreement with Prince George’s County to continue, on a tentative basis, to process Takoma Park’s food compost waste at their facility.

Takoma Park’s food compost waste program began in January 2013. Approximately 800 households currently participate in the initiative.

The city currently collects on Mondays and Fridays in different parts of he city. One or both of those routes was in danger of a month-long suspension.

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The green-lidded composting buckets, seen here during the 2013 pilot program, have become a popular feature throughout Takoma Park.

As part of the free program, participants receive a waste container to collect materials such as vegetable scraps, meat garbage, bones, eggshells, seafood shells, as well as food-soiled paper goods for collection and processing.

The compost is processed to produce a soil “amendment,” which enhances the soil by adding nutrients. The soil amendment product is sold by the processor.

Takoma Park is dependent upon the local Prince George’s County facility to sustain their composting efforts.

There are other local private facilities, but they are not available to us,” said City Councilman Seth Grimes.

Recycling, trash, and compost collection bins in North Takoma Park.

At one point recently the Peninsula Compost Company located in Wilmington, Delaware processed the city’s food compost.

Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control website reported that the facility was mandated on October 20 to cease and desist their waste and compost operations by order of DNREC Secretary David Small.

In a DNREC article detailing the facility’s closure Secretary Small was quoted as saying, “Peninsula Compost Company has placed an undue burden on the quality of life of residents in the City of Wilmington, parts of the City of New Castle and part of New Castle County – particularly those living in close proximity to the facility due to frequent uncontrolled odors.” “The company has been unable to maintain compliance with DNREC’s Beneficial Use Determination permit.”

Last year Prince George’s County began a pilot food-composting program at their Western Branch yard waste composing facility in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

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Compost buckets await curbside collection last winter in Ward 3.

Waste360 reported on their website in November 2013 that “the county selected Sustainable Generation LLC, the GORE® Cover authorized sales and service provider for North America, to assist them with the largest food waste composting project in the state at 4,500 tons per year.”

GORE® Cover is a new technology used to breakdown food waste into an environmentally sustainable product that is sold to plant nurseries.

There is an overarching effort to reduce waste incineration, both by the city and the county.

We must reduce food and yard waste to achieve an overall decrease in waste incineration, said Braithwaite.

Braithwaite believes that large-scale public food composting efforts may be feasible if government agencies and private sector businesses incorporated the soil amendment products produced from composting into their existing mulching needs.

Prince George’s County is hopeful that their pilot program will springboard into a larger effort.

City officials are optimistic that the threat of suspending Takoma Park’s food composting program will not become an issue again in the future.

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Brandie Peterson is a student intern working for The Voice this semester.

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