The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Commercial Food Scraps Recycling Partnership Program has achieved the milestone of recycling more than one million pounds of food scraps collected from businesses and organizations since the program started in May 2020. DEP has continued to develop and expand programs designed to increase recycling as the County strives to reduce waste and recycle more, aiming for zero waste. The Commercial Food Scraps Recycling Partnership Program collected the first pound of food scraps on May 28, 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 health crisis which has been a very challenging time for food service businesses.
In March 2021, the program surpassed its first significant milestone of recycling more than 200,000 pounds of food scraps. By November of last year, that number had more than tripled to more than 625,000 pounds of commercial food scraps recycled. The program won a 2022 National Association of Counties Achievement Award. Recognized under the category of “Civic Education and Public Information,” the program was praised for being unique and innovative.
This program eliminates barriers to recycling food scraps and converts food waste to usable compost. Approximately 40 businesses and organizations have participated in the program, including schools and school facilities, institutional and business cafeterias, coffee shops, caterers, food rescue organizations and shelters. “Our Commercial Food Scraps Recycling Partnership Program has been a very successful endeavor that we will continue to expand in Montgomery County,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “I am very appreciative of the outreach of our Department of Environmental Protection and the participation of our business partners. This partnership is key to maximizing waste reduction, adding to our efforts to reuse and recycle to reach the county’s goal of aiming for zero waste by 2035.”
DEP Acting Director and County Climate Change Officer Adriana Hochberg said the program will continue to grow. “Montgomery County is the first in Maryland and the D.C. Metropolitan area to provide this type of program,” said Acting Director Hochberg. “We continue to move forward by identifying additional partners to join us in reducing food waste at the source by recycling food scraps instead of sending it to disposal facilities.”
Among the program’s goals is to have businesses and organizations partner with DEP to learn how to set up successful food scraps recycling programs. DEP provides education, training, technical support, 35-gallon food scraps recycling collection containers, compostable bags, food scraps recycling collection and processing of the food waste at a composting facility. DEP also provides partners with data on scraps collected for recycling and guidance on contracting for food scraps recycling collection services so partners can “graduate” from the program. After graduating, the participants continue recycling food scraps on their own by hiring a private food scraps recycling collection company.
“Kenwood Country Club has always been an organization that recycles non-compostable waste,” said Kenwood Manager Bill Worrell, one of the partners that has graduated from the program. “When Montgomery County offered a one-year, no additional cost, food waste recycling program, we knew we needed to include compostable items in our efforts. We now compost with a private recycling company and are extremely happy. We highly recommend everyone take advantage of the County program. DEP supplies the bins and liners, you place food scraps in the bin and the County picks them up. The program is simple, with no added cost, and you in turn, do your part for the environment.”