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Ever wonder where your banana peel or orange rind ends up, when you toss it into a bin labeled “compost?” Whether you’re at a Smithsonian museum, a local university, a restaurant or grocery store, it’s likely sent to Prince George’s County, which has the largest composting facility in the region. Soon, Prince George’s will have the largest facility on the East Coast.

The current facility, in Upper Marlboro, can process 12,000 tons a year. When the expansion is complete later this summer, it will be able to handle 57,000 tons.

“The demand for people who want to give their compost to us is overwhelming — we can’t keep up,” says Adam Ortiz, director of the Prince George’s Department of the Environment. “Demand for people who want to buy the compost from us is overwhelming. We can’t keep up.”

Even with the expansion, more than quadrupling capacity, Ortiz says they won’t be able to meet the demand. There is currently a wait list of more than 30 organizations, municipalities and companies that want to send their food scraps here.


A finished pile of compost at the facility in Upper Marlboro.Jacob Fenston / WAMU

The county started composting food scraps in 2013. The University of Maryland — which prepares some 30,000 meals a day for its 9,000 on-campus students — was one of the first customers.

“It was transformational for us, because we were able to reliably have a place where we could divert that food waste,” says Allison Tjaden, who works for dining services at UMD. “It’s something that our students are demanding of us.”

The county charges customers like the university to dump food scraps, and it also makes money selling the finished product to gardeners and landscapers as LeafGro Gold.

For customers, like the University of Maryland, dropping off food scraps could save money too: It’s cheaper to dump a ton of food scraps than to dump a ton of waste at the landfill (though it also adds logistical expenses).

Elsewhere in the region, other jurisdictions are also expanding composting programs. This month D.C. lawmakers passed a bill to incentivize home composting. The District is also in the process of developing a city-wide curbside compost pickup program. One challenge is finding land to build a big enough facility. It would need to be four times the size of the new facility in Prince George’s to accommodate the composting output of collective Washingtonians.

read more original article wamu.org

Date: 2018-05-16

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