Create Nutrient-Rich Soils to Sustain Neighborhoods, Businesses & Ecosystems

Steaming compost

Steaming compost (Photo credit: SuperFantastic)

We already know that Americans waste a lot of food. In 2010 alone, more than 34 million tons of food waste was generated, with only three percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting.

Harnessing the power of food-scraps through composting would remove millions of tons from the waste stream while generating rich nutrients for your garden. But, let’s face it turning our food waste into rich nutrients has not always been easy, especially for city dwellers.

Fortunately, sustainable waste management roots appear to be taking hold here in Maryland. While nationally only 3 percent of food scraps were composted in 2010, the Maryland Department of the Environment estimated that 13 percent of Maryland food scraps are being recycled to improve soil for gardens and other landscaping.

Last December, composting became a little easier for Baltimoreans as the curbside composting program Compost Cab  rolled into town. Just this past week two local composting initiatives were unveiled:

  • The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) announced on Monday that it would begin collecting food scraps at its Baltimore headquarters for composting. Over 900 employees will be afforded the opportunity to compost their uneaten food – which has the potential to divert more than six tons of waste that might otherwise wind-up in an incinerator landfill.
  • Howard County, one of the first East Coast communities to try large-scale composting of household food scraps, is “cooking” the first batches of plant fertilizer to be produced by the new composting facility at the county’s Alpha Ridge landfill in Marriottsville.  Compost produced through this program will be sold back to residents and used to fertilize parks and government property.

Thirteen percent is a promising start, but it is just a drop in the hat – and each one of us can contribute to nutrient-rich soils to sustain neighborhoods, businesses & ecosystems.

Don’t have a lot of space for composting? Here’s a quick, four-step process for small-scale composting

  1. Toss compostable items into your blender so that it’s about a third full.
  2. Fill the container with water and blend until very finely chopped.
  3. Walk out to the garden and with a trowel, dig a small hole alongside a garden plant and pour some of the contents of the blender in.
  4. Cover with dirt and let the worms and microbes go to work. One blender full will fill three small holes (or, of course, one larger one).

No garden? No problem. Real Food Farm wants your food scraps. Gather your food-waste (no meat) and head out to the farm!

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Shannon McGarry

Shannon McGarry, a Project Specialist at Campaign Consultation, Inc., was an environmental activist from age 7 when she organized neighborhood children to protest a housing development.  Her dedication to sustainable water & sanitation systems grew from her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Read More

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