Value of composting

September 23, 1993

Earlier this month, Anne Arundel County stopped the long-standing, senseless practice of filling multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art landfills with harmless yard waste.

In turn, the first phase of a new yard waste pick-up and composting program begins today and every resident who rakes a leaf should make sure he or she participates.

This program isn't just for environmentalists; it should interest every citizen who cares about his or her tax dollar.

Waste disposal represents one of the largest expenditures of county government, and the cost grows every year as state and federal standards for landfill liners, caps and monitoring become more stringent. Filling precious landfill space with organic matter such as leaves, sticks and sod -- which make up a whopping 18 percent of county trash -- has cost taxpayers dearly.

The state, realizing that landfills can no longer be used indiscriminately, has passed new laws restricting what local jurisdictions can dump. Yard waste soon will no longer be allowed in landfills, because it hogs so much space. By next January, jurisdictions must recycle 20 percent of all their trash (including yard waste).

The new composting program, in which yard waste is diverted to composting facilities in Prince George's and Harford counties, is expected to put Anne Arundel over the top in meeting that goal.

Of course, recycling remains voluntary. But participation in curbside composting seems a foregone conclusion.

While sorting bottles, cans and newspapers can be a nuisance, separating yard waste is something most people do as a matter of course. The only inconvenience -- and it's a small one -- consists of marking bags of yard waste with special decals provided by the county.

Phase One of the program begins today in Crofton, Crownsville, Cape St. Claire and South County; haulers will pick up yard waste once a week. The rest of the county will join the program by the end of November.

Like all waste disposal, composting doesn't come cheap. This program will cost $2.7 million annually, a fact residents already have seen reflected in their yearly trash fees.

But that's a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of millions they would have to pay for new landfill space if the

county kept discarding yard waste the old way.

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