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Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection Announces New Commercial Food Scraps Recycling Program on Earth Day

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by unveiling a new Commercial Food Scraps Recycling Program to help businesses and organizations recycle food scraps.

A Food Scraps Recycling Truck will collect the scraps from the entities participating in the program, which will be implemented after restrictions of the COVID-19 health crisis are lifted.

DEP is working with businesses and organizations, especially those that produce large amounts of food scraps, to help set up food scraps recycling programs. The participants will separate and store food scraps that will be picked up by the recycling truck. The food scraps will be taken to the Prince George’s County Organics Composting Facility and processed along with yard trim materials to create compost.

According to the County’s most recent waste composition study completed in 2017, it is estimated that the commercial sector generates 68,000 tons of food scraps annually. That represents the majority of all food scraps found in the County’s waste stream.

“Food scraps are the ‘Next Frontier’ materials in our County recycling program,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “It is public-private partnerships like this that bring our communities together in working to reduce waste, clean up our environment and help us attain our community-wide climate goals to be carbon neutral by 2035. We are so proud of the work the Department of Environmental Protection did to get this project moving forward, especially on this 50th anniversary of Earth Day.”

DEP Director Adam Ortiz said: “Recycling more food scraps is an important step in reaching the County’s overall goal to reduce waste, recycle more and aim for zero waste. The next greatest recyclable material is food scraps—and there is no reason why this recyclable material cannot be composted. Through this program, we are demonstrating that recycling food scraps is not difficult, does not cause nuisances and can be done very successfully.”

The program is not only good for the environment, it also will save money. Currently, businesses and organizations pay to have their trash collected and disposed. By taking part in this program, commercial entities will separate their food scraps from other trash and the County will provide the food scraps pickup and recycling.

“We want to greatly increase the amount of food scraps recycled by businesses and organizations, but we understand that the food scraps recycling capacity is limited,” said Eileen Kao, chief of the DEP Waste Reduction and Recycling Section. “We hope this program shows our local partners how easy it is to separate and store food scraps for pickup. They will see that recycling food scraps is not only good for the environment, it is good for their bottom line and their reputation as eco-friendly community partners. It is a win-win-win.”

Items acceptable for the County food scraps recycling program:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products like milk, butter and cheese
  • Bread, pasta and grains
  • Seafood
  • Eggs and eggshells
  • Paper towels and paper kitchen napkins
  • Coffee grounds and paper coffee filters
  • Paper plates (uncoated or compostable)
  • Tea bags
  • Food-soiled newspaper
  • Meat (including bones)
  • Greasy pizza boxes
  • Corrugated fruit and vegetable boxes
  • Spoiled food
  • Compostable bags
  • Certain types of compostable food service ware products

DEP is working with partner commercial generators of food scraps, including restaurants, grocery stores, schools, universities, hospitals and hotels. It is understood that most are contending with a lot of other pressing issues under the COVID-19 health crisis.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s Stay-At-Home Order due the health crisis has had a significant impact on non-essential businesses that must stay closed. Social distancing requirements and other related complications also have affected businesses that would like to participate in the program.

Those issues will temporarily delay setup of the systems that must be in place to implement the recycling program. DEP will begin collecting food scraps when the stay-at-home order is lifted.

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Release ID: 20-205
Media Contact: Neil H. Greenberger 240-205-1915