We waste a lot of food; In sink garbage disposals make the waste worse!

In the season just past of great foods and feasts, I’m mindful of the amount of food waste we generate. Obviously, there are huge amounts of wasted food in restaurants, and there are always leftover scraps from family dinner.  What we do with that waste has environmental consequences.

It is estimated that 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten, and perhaps 25% of household food.  Uneaten food is reportedly the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste landfills.  And 93% of us in Howard county have Insinkerators that flush scraps down the drain, requiring that it be processed by Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant or Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant in Baltimore City.


The Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant in Howard County, Maryland (photo by Atkins Global)
The Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant in Savage, Maryland (photo by Atkins Global)

There’s a better way.  Howard County has now made composting food scraps even easier! Residents in the collection areas can now “Feed The Green Bin” with all of their food scraps, including meat, fat, and dairy; other residents can drop off food scraps at the Alpha Ridge Landfill.  And there are efforts to divert still edible food to people and places that can use it.

What’s Going Down Your Drain
by HoCo Office of Community Sustainability — 12/21/16

Wow! We had a great response to our garbage disposal survey. Here’s what we learned…

By © S.J. de Waard / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49073830
By © S.J. de Waard / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49073830

93% surveyed have a garbage disposal and 3/4 use it daily or at least 2-3 times per week, primarily for plate scrapings at the end of a meal.

Why did we ask? What does this mean?

Food that is sent down the drain is very costly to process (removing excess nutrients) at the wastewater treatment facility. Also, the oils and grease from your food builds up and may cause blockages in your home.

There’s a better way to handle those food scraps – through composting! We encourage folks to sign up and participate in our curbside Feed The Green Bin food scrap program. It’s a user-friendly program, but there are still many residents who can participate, but haven’t signed up yet. We’re wondering why. Check out our how-to videos to see how EASY IT IS!

We’ve made Feeding The Green Bin even easier! Residents in the collection areas can now set out all of their food scraps for collection; including meat, fat and dairy.

Help us grow our program! Visit FeedTheGreenBin.org to sign-up.

Not in the collection area? You can still participate by dropping off food scraps at The Alpha Ridge Landfill or by composting in your backyard.

Benefits of collecting food scraps for composting
by Bureau of Environmental Services, HoCo Dept. of Public Works

    1. uk-studyReduces household trash. Food scraps are a large part of what people throw away.
    2. Reduces greenhouse gases – food scraps in the landfill create methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) as they decompose.
    3. 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).
    4. Creates a useful product – compost is a great soil amendment that returns nutrients to gardens and produces healthy plants.
    5. Saves money. Removing food scraps from trash reduces trash tonnages and therefore money spent on disposal.
    6. Keeps the food scraps local. Food scraps are processed locally at Alpha Ridge Landfill into a soil amendment.
    7. Provides public awareness. Food scraps are a significant part of household waste that shouldn’t be wasted in the landfill.
    8. Promotes opportunities for local business growth which may enable food scrap collection to be expanded throughout the region.


Composting Facility at The Alpha Ridge Landfill

This state of the art pilot project is located on a ¾ acre site at the Alpha Ridge Landfill and is designed to compost yard trim and food scraps in aerated, covered piles [windrows]. The compostable material is from residents that are participating in Feed The Green Bin. This is supplemented by material directly hauled by residents and contractors to Alpha Ridge. The facility started accepting material from the pilot curbside program in March 2013.

Does the composting facility produce odors or attract pests?

No. The windrows are covered, aerated, regularly mixed and properly managed and monitored. An adjacent biofilter is used to treat collected moist air. At similar facilities, pests and odors are not a problem because the collected food scrap is ground, mixed with yard trim, and immediately covered.


Bill Nye: Fighting Food Waste

Bill Nye promotes an “eco-friendly kitchen” in this short video. He addresses the improper disposal of food waste using an Insinkerator, and discusses the problems associated with purchasing more food than is consumed.

Food Recovery Hierarchy

food-recovery-hierarchyThe Food Recovery Hierarchy prioritizes actions organizations can take to prevent and divert wasted food. Each tier of the Food Recovery Hierarchy focuses on different management strategies for your wasted food.

The top levels of the hierarchy are the best ways to prevent and divert wasted food because they create the most benefits for the environment, society and the economy.


Maryland Food Bank Farm to Food Bank Program


The Farm To Food Bank Program engages a network of farms across the state in a partnership to provide hungry Marylanders with fresh, local produce. Through a combination of field gleanings, donations, and contract growing, these farms help us supply good, nutritious food to food-insecure communities across the state.

“We’ve always had excess produce, but didn’t have a convenient way to get it to needy people. This program helped by being very easy to work with and responding quickly to our requests for pick-up.” (Participating Farm to Food Bank farmer)


Featured Image at Beginning of Post

By Ms Jones from California, USA – Our (Almost Traditional) Thanksgiving Dinner, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2438487


Published by

Harry Schwarz

Nicknamed “The Professor” by his colleagues, Harry is a native Marylander who moved to Columbia in 2001. Harry’s wife, Cathy, is a Columbia acupuncturist and the family includes two college-age children, a dog and a cat. Harry is a partner with BearsolutionsLLC, assisting charter school authorizers to provide effective financial oversight. He is underemployed at this time and welcomes conversation about how he might help you.

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