The County Council got its first taste of a countywide composting program that could change how Frederick County manages and collects its trash.

Geosyntec senior consultant Jeremy Morris fielded questions from the council on the cost and feasibility of implementing a program that would collect food waste at single-family houses, downtown restaurants and schools in a way similar to the blue bin recycling system.

The idea is to phase in a third bin that would be devoted to food waste and soiled paper products, such as pizza boxes, that would otherwise find their way to a landfill.

Members of the council focused their questions on what it would cost households — which Geosyntec predicts would be less than $10 a month — and what county codes would need to change to allow the compost facilities to operate.

The county could take several approaches to absorb the cost per student or offset the higher costs that restaurants would need to pay to participate in composting, Morris said.

“Even if there’s an expense involved, we’ll have to weigh that against what it would cost to build another landfill,” Councilman Jerry Donald said in an interview after the workshop on Tuesday.

The county is currently in a good situation: Fuel costs are low, and it sends a majority of its trash to Pennsylvania to preserve space in its own landfill, he said. But the county cannot bank on this situation forever, he said.

Estimates suggest that Frederick County collects less than 5 percent of its food waste. The Maryland Zero Waste Plan sets the goal for the county to divert 60 percent of its food waste from landfills by 2025 and 90 percent by 2040.

The plan outlined by Geosyntec and the Solid Waste Steering Committee — commonly known as What’s Next — could get the county close to those targets.

The council’s second concern — siting the composting facilities — would fall on the county Department of Utilities and Waste Management, said Director Kevin Demosky, who has been involved throughout the process.

“The easy part is the study. The hard part is — as I’ve been saying all along — is how to pay for it, where to site and what legislative changes will need to be made holistically across the board,” Demosky told the council at the workshop.

Geosyntec and the committee recommend the county start with a pilot program in schools and restaurants in downtown Frederick and slowly scale up over time. The report predicts the county will eventually need 12 compost facilities that would each process 10,000 cubic yards of compost a year.

Most people would object to the construction of a landfill near their property, but a small compost facility on a small number of acres may be more palatable, County Council Vice President M.C. Keegan-Ayer said after the meeting.

The potential to compost on agriculturally zoned land, which already has a flow of machinery on and off the property, may also be an option to explore, Donald said.

“It’s not turning the neighborhood upside down,” Donald said.

During the pilot, the expectation is that composting facilities will also approach large institutions such as hospitals and colleges to bring their compostable materials to their site, Morris said. This statement addressed concerns repeatedly raised by people following the process that large institutions were not included in the rollout of the proposed composting plan.

The plan presented on Tuesday is a skeleton that now needs the muscle and meat, Keegan-Ayer said.

The committee plans to submit a final copy of its solid waste management study to the county government in a few days, Morris said.

But Keegan-Ayer said she did not foresee the role of the committee or Geosyntec’s being finished yet. She would like to see a study of how county codes would need to change to accommodate the development of compost facilities.

“We’ll have to see,” Keegan-Ayer said. “This is the beginning of what will be a fairly long process.”

Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan


Samantha Hogan is the state house, environment, agriculture and energy reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(15) comments


There are some food waste items that won't compost.


From today's FNP article on composting at home:

"What not to compost at home. Ashes from coal or charcoal, cat litter, dog waste, fish scraps, meat, oils and grease, milk, cheese, yogurt, sawdust and wood shavings from chemically treated wood"


I think that anything like food waste kept outside is too likely to attract mice and/or rats. And, only pick-up once a week? I think that it is too much work for most people to get into this practice. To each his own, but who needs the hassle? And, the world is going to go on just fine when we're all gone.


The pilot program is a reasonable idea. Scaling up is a separate matter.

Part of the pilot program should include participation by our elected leadership (CE/Council Members). Assign a county employee w/vehicle to make the weekly rounds. Heck, I'd pay 10 bucks a month for that [wink]


It seems that a couple of pieces to the economic puzzle are missing here, first , what is the weight of 120,000 cubic yards of food waste at the time it is picked up which will tell us the current cost of hauling to Pa. at approx. $55/ton, and that would become a cost avoidance if the program goes forward and second what is the value of this material when it becomes compost and can be sold, which will create cash flow offsetting some or all of the household cost....and the contractor who has been at this for more than a year ought to be able to supply this data....finally my household currently pays a private hauler $4.50 per trip to pick up our yard and food waste once every 2 weeks , so the contractor's estimate may just be a bit high...putting these 3 items together there may be little or NO extra cost to do this .


Unless they pick up the food waste bins weekly, they are going to get pretty "ripe" when it is warm out. Even weekly pickup will be bad. Most of this waste now goes into a closed bag in the trash can, which keeps the odors down somewhat; just dumping it into a bin is a rotten idea.


There are compostable trash bags that are usually utilized by municipal composting programs. EcoSafe and BioBag are two leading name brands.


A countywide composting program is a good idea, it might cost us more, but it will make waste reusable and cut down on landfills. With that idea you need to set standards, what constitutes waste that can be compost, can it be just food items and cardboard or aluminum foil with food on it which bin does that go in?

Hopefully, we are given a cost analysis on this and it should include the possibility of waste being sold as a fertilizer, there may be companies interested in using it.

Companies that might use food waste for fertilizer:
Indian River
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Food Waste To Fertilizer: Converted Organics - greenUPGRADER

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Converting Food Waste into Organic Fertilizer ... fertilizer from food waste ... WISErg Captures the Best Use of Energy in Food Waste.


This is good in theory, however, I suggest ALL county offices be the first one to participate and then let us know how it is working.[thumbup]


I already have two bins in my kitchen for trash and recycle and two bins taking up driveway space for the same two reasons. Now I to be expected to find room for a third container in each location and to pay $10 more per month for the "privilege"? I vote no!


Such a sad story. I choked up reading it. Thank you for sharing such a difficult situation with us.


I agree garden.


That is a good thought and it bothers me too.


I agree gardenwhimsey. I already have a compost bin in my garden. Why should I pay $10 for something I won't use?

Another "feel good" idea so the politicians will look like they are doing something. They should find another bust to move.


Tony's approach, formulaic
and his parsing of points, algebraic
when he said he'd endorse
even more intercourse
none assumed that he meant the archaic.

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