According to a Howard County study, almost 30% of what we send to the landfill could be composted and turned into a valuable product! Our Feed The Green Bin collection is an optional program that allows residents to help divert this waste.
Not in our collection area?
Step 1: Choose your size.
We offer 3 sizes of green carts: a 12-gallon, 35-gallon and 65-gallon cart. The 12-gallon cart is probably the best size for most households collecting food scraps only. If you have a larger household, generate more food scraps, and/or plan to add yard trim to your green cart, the larger 35 or 65-gallon cart is best. Please remember these carts should primarily be used for food scraps, but yard trim material can be added as a supplement as well.
Step 2: Collect kitchen scraps
We offer a small lidded countertop container to collect your kitchen scraps. These containers are for indoor use only and should NOT be set out for collection. Residents in our program can receive one with their food scrap cart request or may pick one up at our office (9801 Broken Land Parkway). Paper bags and certified compostable bags can also be used for food scraps. No plastic bags will be accepted. Bagged food scraps must be placed in food scrap cart for collection.
Step 3: Set out for collection
Your cart will be emptied weekly by the yard trim truck. Be sure to place items at the curb before 6am on your collection day. Indoor containers should not be placed at the curb.
Collection is year-round, so continue to set out material even in the winter!
Food scraps and yard trim are turned into HoCoGro compost (a valuable soil amendment) at Alpha Ridge Landfill. HoCoGro compost, mulch and topsoil are available for purchase.
Fruit and vegetable scraps (fresh or cooked)
Pumpkins and gourds
Grass, leaves, yard trim
Bread, pasta, rice, grains, cereal, baked goods, etc.
Meat, fish, shellfish (including bones)
Dairy products (cheese, butter, ice cream, etc.)
Nuts, beans, seeds (including shells/hulls)
Pet food (dry or wet)
Coffee grounds and filters (no foil or foil-backed products)
Tea bags (must meet ASTM D6400 or BPI standards for compostability)
Paper towels & napkins (free of chemicals & cleaning products)
Compostable cups, plates and bowls (must meet ASTM D6400 or BPI standards for compostability)
Pizza boxes (remove non-food items)
Houseplants, cut flowers (please no dirt)
Chopsticks and popsicle sticks
Fats, oils, grease (small amounts are OK)
Ice cream containers
Facial tissues/toilet paper
Recyclable paper (magazines, cardboard boxes, shredded paper, milk/juice cartons, etc.) should go in your curbside recycling only.
Plastic bags and non-compostable packaging
Additional Green Carts
If you're in the collection area and want another green cart, here's the form to purchase additional carts.
If you need your current food scrap cart repaired or replaced, please contact our office or submit an online request.
Please remember that green carts are to be used for food scraps and yard trim ONLY.
Food Scraps Introduction
Food Scrap Collection Containers
Food Scrap Indoor Tips
Food Scrap Outdoor Tips
Food Scrap Cart Basics
Howard County Backyard Composting
Howard County was the first in the Mid Atlantic to start collecting food scraps and yard trim together for composting. Our first "mini pilot" was launched in 2010, and after review, a pilot program was offered to a 5,000 household collection route in Ellicott City and Elkridge. The pilot was well-received, with roughly 1,750 households signed up to participate. Since the pilot, over 16,000 residents have decided to join in this amazing program!
Our Feed the Green Bin program is now available in 7 collection routes and 7 HCPSS schools. Once we have additional composting capacity we will be able to add even more collection routes.
Reduces household trash. Food scraps are a large part of what people throw away (almost 30%).
Reduces greenhouse gases. Food scraps in the landfill create methane (a powerful greenhouse gas that must be controlled/treated) 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 sent tot he landfill (as much as 30%!) and therefore money spent on disposal.
Keeps the food scraps local. Food scraps are processed locally at our Composting Facility at Alpha Ridge Landfill into a soil amendment which is available for sale in bulk.
Provides public awareness. Food scraps are a significant part of household waste (almost 30%) 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.
You are not required to use bags, but if you prefer to, please make sure the bags contain the BPI logo. The BPI logos means they are compostable and they have been tested and proven to breakdown (DO NOT use regular plastic bags).
Please see the list below of retailers that have sold certified compostable bags. This list is subject to change and does not indicate whether compostable bags are in stock. Please verify with individual stores.
- Wegmans (8855 McGaw Rd)
- Wal-Mart (6405 Dobbin Rd)
- Safeway (5485 Harpers Farm Rd)
- Harris Teeter (Village Center, 8620 Guilford Rd)
- Whole Foods (10275 Little Patuxent Pkwy)
- Roots Market (5805 Clarkskville Square Dr)
- Kendall's Hardware (12260 Clarksville Pike)
- Ace Hardware (10325 Baltimore National Pike)
- Target (6111 Dobbin Rd)
- MOM's Organic Market (7351 Assateague Dr #190)
How do I know if my neighborhood is in the collection area?
You can check to see if your area receives collection through our online sign-up!
Is the Feed the Green Bin program year-round?
Yes! Residents in our collection area receive year-round food scrap and yard trim collection. Continue to set out material even in the winter!
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 30%, simply by composting their food scraps. Food scraps and yard trim that is collected will be composted and turned into a soil amendment.
Where can I buy compostable bags?
You are not required to use bags, but if you prefer to, please make sure the bags contain the BPI logo. The BPI logos means they are compostable and they have been tested and proven to breakdown (DO NOT use regular plastic bags). They are also available online from many different websites. See our list above for more information.
I'm having a party. What kind of paper plates, cup and bowls should I purchase?
Reusable dinnerware is always best, but if you choose to purchase disposable plates, cups and bowls please make sure they meet ASTM D6400 or BPI standards for compostability. We are unable to process any compostable utensils.
How often is the cart emptied?
The cart will be emptied once per week 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 green bin collection smell?
Please keep in mind you will be setting out the same material for collection; it will just be in a different container.
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.
Should I add all of my newspapers to the green bin?
While a few sheets of newspaper can be used to wrap wet food scraps or line the bottom of the cart to absorb moisture, please place your everyday newspapers in the BLUE recycling bin where they can be turned into new paper products.
What about using my garbage disposal?
Using a garbage disposal can lead to clogs and backups in your pipes. Disposals also send nutrients that are expensive to treat to the water reclamation facility. Composting food scraps in your backyard or using the green bin for collection are better options. 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.
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, our office provides one free indoor countertop container per residence. This container can be picked up at our office (9801 Broken Land Parkway).
You may also use compostable bags (with the BPI logo) or paper bags. Do not use plastic bags because they don't break down with the material. You can also make an easy indoor bin liner out of newspaper.
Can I put pet waste in compostable bags in my green bin?
Unfortunately, we still cannot accept pet waste (even in compostable bags). There are pathogens in these wastes that are transmittable to humans and other animals. While our composting process meets EPA composting standards and reduces pathogens, it does not sterilize the compost. We strive for a rich compost, free of pathogens and therefore, prohibit pet waste.
How do I learn more about the Composting Facility at Alpha Ridge Landfill?
Please visit our Composting Facility webpage or email us using our contact information below.