Montgomery County farmers might get new options for mulching and composting on their land.

The county produces about 147,000 tons of food waste every year, according to Council Member Evan Glass.

Most of that is taken to an incinerator in Dickerson, where it’s burned.

Mulching and composting are currently allowed as accessory uses to farming if no more than 20% of the material is transported from off-site.

A proposed zoning amendment, introduced at the County Council’s meeting on Tuesday, would increase the limit to 50%. It also would give farmers more flexibility in using extra yard and food waste for compost and mulch, allowing more food waste to be recycled rather than incinerated.

Glass, who spearheaded the proposed zoning amendment, said Tuesday that the county has a partnership with Prince George’s County to use its composting facility.

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“[Montgomery] County doesn’t have a meaningful way to address the sheer amount of food waste that we generate every single year,” he said. He added that the amendment would follow nearly a year of conversations with farmers, scientists and environmentalists on the issue.

“At its core, we know that farmers want composting because composting is farming,” he said. “By increasing the amount of food scraps our farms can accept, it means we produce more compost and mulch instead of that scrap being sent to the incinerator.”

There are already farmers ready to accept more food waste, Glass said.

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A public hearing on the proposed amendment is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 1.

Council Member Andrew Friedson said the amendment would be a good change.

“This is about proving how we can benefit our environment and sustainability goals,” he said, “and also support the local small-business owners who are the foundation of our county’s economy, helping our family-owned agricultural operations financially and making sure that we keep compost materials out of the waystream.”

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Council Member Hans Riemer said the amendment would make it more possible for residents, businesses and schools to have a place nearby to process compost waste.

“It’s part of returning what grows out of the ground to the ground,” he said.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazinec.com.

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