Published On: Fri, Jul 29th, 2011

Ellicott City and Elkridge Selected for Composting Pilot Project

In addition to recycling and trash services, Howard County is offering some Ellicott City and

Elkridge residents the opportunity to put out their leftover food in a separate, county-provided container to be recycled as compost. Officials said it’s a unique program.

“We are not aware of any similar programs at the county level on the East Coast,” said Evelyn Tomlin, chief of the Bureau of Environmental Services, who was on hand to answer questions at the July 19 information session.

The Ellicott City/Elkridge area was selected for the pilot program because of logistics, according to Tomlin. “We’ve divided the county into 15 [waste collection] areas, and every five years, the contracts are rebid. This area was one of the first that was being rebid” with food scrap collection as an option, she said. The only additional cost was paying for the bin, so the county decided to try composting.

“This is the final frontier; there are programs in place for virtually every other element of the waste stream,” said James Irvin, director of public works for Howard County. The county offers recycling for paper, plastics, metals and yard waste, “but the bulk of what’s left is food waste,” said Irvin, who composts at his Ellicott City home.

In fact, yard trimmings and food scraps make up 26 percent of waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Residents in the pilot area are eligible to have Howard County pick up their food scraps as long as they have yard waste collection services and are in the sample area, said Tomlin, where approximately 5,000 people live.

The Ellicott City and Elkridge area is desirable for testing because “it’s a good mix of townhouses and single-family homes,” she said, adding, “It will give us a good idea as to whether we can expand [the program] countywide.”

Last week, the county sent out tri-fold postcards so residents could reply if they would like to participate. So far, more than 300 have signed up, said Tomlin. She estimated that registration will remain open until the end of August. “You have to volunteer for it; it’s not automatic,” she said.

The first curbside food scrap collection will be the week of Sept. 12. Pickup will be on the same day as recycling, and food scraps will be taken to Carroll County, said Tomlin, per the county’s contract with service providers. The pilot will run through June 30, 2012.


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