Composting a challenge for government but easy in one's backyard

August 08, 2011

I applaud Howard County for at least trying to compost at a county level ("Thinking outside the can," Aug. 4). And as a backyard composter in Baltimore, I hope my neighbors to the west succeed. But I doubt they will. The public simply isn't ready. We can't even recycle properly.

Inappropriate items fill recycle bins from soiled deli food containers to the plastic bags that carried them out of the store. You don't get much simpler than single-stream recycling and still we fail. Composting is more complex.

There can be no meats and dairy products in compost stream. Yet we live in a fast-food and processed-food nation. What kind of food scraps does Howard County expect to collect, minus the fried chicken bones and pizza boxes? And what will be the quality of this compost? It certainly won't be organic, and it may very well be unsuitable for vegetable gardens.

Nevertheless, many of us in Baltimore can compost today. Simply dig an 8-inch hole in some dirt, insert garbage, and cover it up. The garbage will be gone in about two weeks. I've turned the rock-hard clay in my backyard into a fertile farm land filled with worms and vegetables in just a year's time this way, and I can trust the origin of my compost.

Christopher Wanjek, Baltimore

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