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Howard County Sees Environmental And Economic Potential In Composting

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Robyn Page with her daughters Simone Page Gilmore, right, and Vivienne Page Gilmore, left, and their compost bin.
Jessica Gould
Robyn Page with her daughters Simone Page Gilmore, right, and Vivienne Page Gilmore, left, and their compost bin.

Maryland's Howard County is calling on residents to put their leftovers to use through a new food scraps recycling program.

When Robyn Page tells her daughters to clean their plates, she really means it.

"So this is our in-house bin. So today when we finish lunch, we had apple for lunch, we're going to put our apple cores in the bin. And then we take it out back," she says.

Page and her family have been composting food scraps for years. She says the scraps make a rich fertilizer for the family's organic garden, and composting teaches an important lesson about conservation to her children.

"I think it's really important for kids to learn that we can't just trash our planet," she says.

Plus, as her daughter, 6-year old Vivienne Page Gilmore says: "It makes a beautiful mess."

And Howard County Executive Ken Ulman says composting leftovers also makes economic sense.

"This is great for the environment but it's also great for economics because we pay firms to haul our trash away to a landfill," he says. "And as much as we can minimize that it helps our bottom line economically as well."

Starting in September, Howard County will unveil a new curbside recycling program for food scraps. Brown banana peels, shattered egg shells, greasy pizza boxes -- the county wants them all.

"It will go to a facility in Carroll County where they currently process our yard waste," Ulman says. "Now the same truck can also take the food scraps. And they're then composted into soil."

As part of the pilot program, the county will distribute special composting bins to participating residents.

"We're really trying to change the culture in Howard County and make sure sustainability is factored into every decision we make. We're also trying to focus people on the economics of it as well," he says. "If we make wise investments not only will we help the environment, but we're also helping our budget especially in these tough times," he says.

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