Food Scrap Collection
According to a recent Howard County study, almost a quarter of what we send to the landfill could be composted and turned into a valuable product!
Volunteer households in certain areas are participating in curbside food scrap collection. Collection is ongoing! If you are interested (and are located in the collection area), you can participate! This new program collects the same types of material you have always set at the curb, the difference is a separate container!
To SIGN UP or see if you are in the collection area, please click here.
Participants receive a special food scrap cart that is emptied weekly.
What is Accepted?
- Fruit and vegetable scraps (fresh or cooked)
- Bread, pasta, rice, grains, cereal, baked goods, etc.
- Nuts, beans, seeds (including shells/hulls)
- Egg shells
- Coffee grounds, filters, tea bags (no foil or foil-backed products)
- Paper products (paper towels, napkins, paper plates)
- Pizza boxes (remove non-food items)
- Houseplants, cut flowers
- Chopsticks and popsicle sticks
- Grass, leaves, yard trim
What is NOT Accepted?
- Meat, fish, shellfish (including bones)
- Dairy products (cheese, butter, ice cream, etc.)
- Fats, oils, grease
- Facial tissues
- Pet waste
Benefits of collecting food scraps for composting:
- Reduces household trash. Food scraps are a large part of what people throw away.
- Reduces greenhouse gases - food scraps in the landfill create methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) as they decompose.
- Reduces the need for garbage disposals. By using garbage disposals to get rid of unwanted food, excess nutrients are sent to treatment plants. They are costly to process and remove (about 10 times more expensive than curbside collection and processing).
- Creates a useful product – compost is a great soil amendment that returns nutrients to gardens and produces healthy plants.
- Saves money. Removing food scraps from trash reduces trash tonnages and therefore money spent on disposal.
- Keeps the food scraps local. Food scraps are processed locally at Alpha Ridge Landfill into a soil amendment.
- Provides public awareness. Food scraps are a significant part of household waste that shouldn't be wasted in the landfill.
- Promotes opportunities for local business growth which may enable food scrap collection to be expanded throughout the region.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why collect food scraps separately?
To reduce waste and save money on disposal costs. Howard County residents could reduce trash sent to the landfill by 23%, simply by composting their food scraps. Food scraps collected will be composted and turned into a soil amendment.
What will the cart look like and how big is it?
Residents can choose from 2 green carts: a 35 gallon cart (39” tall x 20” wide x 23” deep) or a 65 gallon cart (40.5" tall x 27" wide x 23" deep). Remember, you can add yard trim to the food scrap carts too.
How often is the cart emptied?
The cart will be emptied on your recycling day by the same truck that collects yard trim. No additional collection trucks are needed!
My household doesn’t generate many food scraps. Should I still participate?
Yes! You can make a difference, no matter how big (or small!) your household. Composting even small amounts of food scraps reduces trash. Unexpected items such as herbs/spices, cereal, corn cobs/husks, cookies and paper egg cartons can be included.
Will curbside food scrap collection smell?
Please keep in mind you will be setting out the same material for collection; it will just be in a different container. Meat, fish and dairy products, often the most odor causing items, are not accepted for food scrap collection.
You can easily incorporate paper bags, pizza boxes, grass, leaves or baking soda to absorb liquids and reduce any smells. Rinsing and cleaning the cart may also help.
What if I rely on my garbage disposal?
Using a garbage disposal sends fats, oils and grease through your pipes, which can lead to clogs and backups. Disposals also send nutrients that are expensive to treat to the water reclamation facility. Watch Bill Nye's quick video about garbage disposal use.
Will the 40-pound weight limit apply to my food scrap cart?
No, not for the county-issued cart. Additional containers should weigh less than 40 pounds.
You said no meat, fat or dairy. What about leftovers that contain meat, oil, butter or cheese?
Small amounts of these items used as an ingredient can be included in the food scrap cart. However, meatballs or other easily removed meat, fish or dairy products should be placed in the trash.
What should I use to collect food scraps indoors?
A large tub or plastic container is all you need, but if you prefer a food scrap specific container, check online or your local stores. You may also use biodegradable bags (with the BPI logo) or paper bags. Make an easy indoor bin liner out of newspaper.
How do I learn more about the new ARL pilot compost facility?
Report from the mini food scrap collection pilot in Howard County.
Food scrap pictures from the mini pilot.
See us on the news!
Help Videos (tips and hints for successful food scrap collection)
Food Scrap Composting at Work
Food Scrap Composting at Events