Food Waste Recycling Plan Unveiled To County Council

It would require mandatory participation.

Frederick, Md (KM). It’s starts small, and grows. That’s what’s involved in a plan for  a food waste recycling program in Frederick County. The plan, developed by the consulting group Geosyntec, was presented to the Frederick County Council on Tuesday by the Solid Waste Steering Committee.

It would call for the opening of about 12 composting centers throughout the county which would be operated by the private sector under a franchise. Jeremy Morris with Geosyntec says it’s  called Single Stream Organics collection which would take  food scraps from schools, restaurants and homes in Frederick city. It would gradually expand out to the county. He says he’s recommending this proposal over large scale centralized composting, an expansion of a food-waste co-digestation at the Ballenger-McKinney Wastewater Treatment Plan and a resource recovery park. “It’s much  lower cost and much less risk in terms of getting where you are now to where you want to go,” he said. “There’s no huge capital investment involved.”

Right now, Morris says,  the county recycles very little food waste. But under the Maryland Zero Waste Program, it must recycle 60% of its food waste by 2025, and 90% by 2040. Overall, Frederick County recycles 50% of its solid waste.

He says it would involve residents receiving a green bin to place their food waste which would be collected just as their regular trash and recyclables in the blue bins  are collected.

But for this plan to work, it would require mandatory participation by citizens and businesses. “You have to take part; you don’t have the option of opting out, and we get up to 90% participation,” he says. “But if we let people choose, using parameters from other jurisdictions that have allowed people to choose to take part, we see organics recycling maximizing out at 50% So you going to get much less performance.”

Morris said the county would need to enact an ordnance mandating participation if it wants to be successful  “A number of jurisdictions have made it mandatory to separate the organic material and have it collected separately,” he said. “Otherwise, you just can’t get the level of performance that the zero-waste plan is asking for,” he says.

But, Morris says, a number of jurisdictions have created incentives for residents and businesses to get them to comply with food waste recycling programs. “Generally, a carrot works better than a stick,” he says. “So most places have figured out that if you incentivize, if you provide rewards or reduced costs for doing better rather than higher costs for doing worse, you actually end up with better rates of participation.”

The Council took no action on this plan.

By Kevin McManus