Win With the Green Bin

Users of the Green Bin help turn wilting food scraps into mighty soil; tame rushing stormwater into a trickle; bypass dangerous
pesticides and fertilizers; save space in landfills and reduce global warming.

The Green Bin is also free.

But nearly 60 percent of River Hill residents have yet to discover the wonders of the Green Bin.

River Hill is within one of the three pilot areas in Howard County where residents can put food scraps, otherwise destined
for the garbage, into the Green Bin. Here’s what’s so great about the Green Bin:
• Food scraps are nearly a quarter of our garbage, which is shipped to an out-of-state landfill. That’s expensive. Also, food scraps at the landfill give off methane, a powerful and climate disrupting greenhouse gas. So keeping food scraps out of landfills is good for the county budget and the climate.
• Recycling food scraps reduces the use of garbage disposals, which waste water, clog drains, and burden treatment plants. The cost of treating food and water sent down the drain is about 10 times that of the curbside collection and processing program. (A study also found that composting creates twice as many jobs as landfills and four times as many jobs as incinerators.)
• Using the food-scraps-turned-compost on lawns and gardens decreases the need for chemical fertilizers, helps retain water in the soil, and reduces erosion and runoff into our streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.

About 1,350 homes in River Hill have the Green Bin, said Gemma Evans, the county’s recycling coordinator. Pointers Run Elementary School and Clarksville Middle School are also collecting food scraps for the program. “We get new signups from “the pilot areas almost daily,” Evans said. Order a bin online at or call 410-313-6444. Participating residents collect food scraps during the week and put the green bin at the curb on recycling pickup day. The county offers 12-, 35- and 65-gallon bins, all with a lid and wheels. Food scraps (as well as leaves and other yard trim) can go directly in the green bin or in a biodegradable or paper bag. Another idea is to collect food scraps in a bowl in the kitchen during the day, and put each batch of scraps in a simple origami pouch or bag that you can make from newspapers. These can be carried easily to your green bin. A YouTube demo for the origami bag is here: (Visit the Watershed Committee booth at Green Fest, April 18, and we’ll show you how to make one.) Don’t put the scraps in plastic bags, though. They never decompose and will contaminate the compost.

DO place these items in the Green Bin:
• fruit and vegetable scraps (fresh or cooked)
• bread, pasta, rice, grains, cereal, baked goods, etc.
• nuts, beans, seeds (including shells/hulls)
• eggshells
• coffee grounds, filters, tea bags (no foil or foil-backed products)
• paper products (paper towels, napkins, paper plates)
• pizza boxes (remove nonfood items)
• paperboard takeout food containers (remove metal handle)
• houseplants, cut flowers
• wooden chopsticks and popsicle sticks
• grass, leaves, yard trim

DON’T place these items in the Green Bin:
• meat, fish, shellfish, bones
• dairy products (cheese, butter, ice cream, etc.)
• fats, oils, grease
• Styrofoam or plastic bags
• pet waste
• diapers

At the Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville, three-quarters of an acre has been set aside to compost yard trim and food scraps in monitored, aerated, turned, and covered piles. Transforming food scraps into compost takes about 75 days at the facility. The resulting HoCoGro Compost is registered with the state Department of Agriculture and regularly tested. At Alpha Ridge, the compost sells for $19 a cubic yard, and a topsoil blend of soil and compost sells for $23 a cubic yard. (Prices include sales tax.)

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