Prince George’s seeks to clean up with composting -- Gazette.Net


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More Prince George’s communities may soon be able to compost their kitchen waste and reduce the amount of waste going into county landfills.

Adam Ortiz, director of the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, said compost jackets have allowed the county to make high-quality compost four times faster.

Kitchen waste composting allows the county to reduce the amount of waste going into its landfills while also providing a resource that can be resold to landscapers, gardeners and businesses, Ortiz said.

University Park became the first community in Prince George’s to begin composting kitchen waste in October 2011 and the county partnered with the town last year by taking the collected waste and composting it, said.

Michael Beall, director of University Park’s Public Works Department, said the program has expanded to 160 households in University Park, collecting about 1,000 pounds of waste per week.

“It’s been going perfect,” Beall said. “Participation continues to be strong.”

Ortiz said the department is looking at ways the program can be expanded to other areas, although exact details regarding expenses or locations are not yet available.

“Right now, we’re analyzing one year’s worth of data, and so we’ll be making a decision this summer as to how we’ll be expanding the program,” Ortiz said. “So residents and businesses in the county should stay tuned.”

Lisa Lincoln, executive director of the Oxon Hill-based nonprofit Prince George’s Green, said she welcomed the news.

“The Department of the Environment has a goal of moving towards zero waste, and as food scraps are a significant source of waste going into our landfills, this is a great initiative to moving towards that goal,” Lincoln said.

The initiative is one of a number being taken on by the Department of the Environment, which changed its name from the Department of Environmental Resources on Friday to better reflect its environmental mission.

Ortiz said other initiatives include a plan to install solar farms at the county’s two landfill sites and the construction of stormwater devices.

“With the Department of the Environment, residents will be getting an agency delivering a cleaner, greener and healthier county,” Ortiz said.

In July 2013, the county transferred many of the permitting and licensing duties to a new Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement, allowing the agency to focus more on environmental issues.

Ortiz said the name change was necessitated in part because residents were still calling regarding services that were no longer under DER.

“We still get calls from residents about tall grass, broken windows or permitting issues because of their association with our old name,” Ortiz said.

Lincoln said that over the years, she has seen DER move away from its environmental mission, and praised the county for refocusing the department.

“I think it is great that they are doing this re-launch to refocus the department,” Lincoln said.

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net