Proposed Composting Bill Discussed Monday During Roundtable

It would ease regulations on composting operations in Frederick County.


Frederick, Md (KM) Proposed legislation to ease some of the regulations on composting in Frederick County was the topic of a round table discussion Monday night at Winchester Hall. The bill would let farmers take in food waste from restaurants and other entities, and compost it. They could either use the material on their own farms, or sell it.

“It would encourage schools. And restaurants are probably the early adopters, the easy wins because there’s so much material there,” says Ron Koltenbaugh, the Chairman of Frederick County’s Sustainability Commission.

But others in the discussion raised a few concerns. Robert Ramsburg, the President of the Frederick County Farm Bureau, said the membership  supported the concept of composting, not necessarily this law. But “sorting is one issue and transporting it to the farm is going to be another issue,” he said.

The legislation would set up two  categories of users: limited food waste composting, agricultural activity; and limited fast composting, commercial activity. The first category would allow farmers to set aside an area between 5,000 square feet and five acres for composting without a site plan. They could accept  food waste and compost it for use on their own farms. The second category would requires farmers to prepare a site plan if they set aside between 5,000 square feet and five-acres for composting if they plan to sell the product. Any composting operation exceeding five-acres of land would need a site plan, and those that exceed ten acres would require a floating zone.

Farmers, restaurants and other entities which take part in composting would do so on a voluntary basis. This bill would not mandate it. .

Another problem connected with composting is the odor given off by food waste. “I visited hundreds of landfills, hog farms, dairy farms,” says Chris Voell, a member of the Solid Waste What’s Next Committee. which recommended an ordinance to encourage the private sector to find ways to collect and compost food waste. “And I can tell the worst thing you ever want to smell is when you walk into an alley where food waste has been digesting for a couple of days. Nothing matches that.”

He  said transporting food waste is also a challenge. “This stuff is incredibly liquid filled. Being in the waste field, I’ve seen all this sophisticated equipment that when people are putting a commercial operation up for this, they have almost hermetically sealed vehicles for transporting this type of waste. You can’t just put it in a regular truck or it will be all over the roads in Frederick County,” says Voell.

The Frederick County School System will also have some challenges if it started a food waste composting program, according to Charlie Dalphon, Energy Conservation Coordinator. He told the panel on Monday night that about 3,000 students eat their breakfast in classrooms, and custodians are required to clean up any food waste. In addition, some students eat their lunches and dinners in classrooms. “I’m all for composting. For us, there’s going to a heavy price to pay for it with getting all this  food waste out of these classrooms in the morning and the afternoon,” he said.

County Executive Jan Gardner says she plans to introduce this bill to the County Council, which will hold a workshop and a public hearing. The legislation will also come before the Planning Commission.

Councilman Jerry Donald, who was part of the roundtable discussion, said there is an advantage to composting food waste. “The longer we can extend our landfill life, the happier we’re all going to be,” he said. “We’ve been through some things with the Farm Bureau, with the solar business and medical marijuana, and all kind of things that riled people up. Trying to site a new landfill in the county will make the rest of these seem like small potatoes issues, in addition to the cost.” Donald says a new landfill could cost the county $100-million.


By Kevin McManus