2021 | Government

Farms can accept more food waste for compost, mulch under zoning change

Waste brought in from elsewhere can double

File photo

Montgomery County’s roughly 147,000 tons of annual food waste could soon be put to good use.

Instead of most waste being burned at an incinerator in Dickerson, it can now be used as a new option for mulching and composting on farmland.

The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a zoning amendment to allow mulching and composting as accessory uses to farming if no more than 50% of the material comes in from off-site.

The vote on Tuesday increased the previous limit from 20%.

The amendment 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. The county has a partnership with Prince George’s County to use its composting facility.

Council Member Evan Glass, who spearheaded the amendment, said Tuesday that food waste is the largest contributing factor to the county’s waste system.

“What we are about to do today is allow farmers to increase their partnership with environmentally conscious entrepreneurs, which is really an important step towards reducing our waste and increasing our climate goals, leading to a greener economy,” he said.

The amendment is modest but significant, Council Member Andrew Friedson said.

“It’s a win for our environment. It’s a win for our economy, for farmers and for residents,” he said. “This is part of the broader efforts that we need to take to really ramp up our composting capabilities.

“There’s a lot of demand and desire. We have to provide the infrastructure to allow that to happen. This is a modest loosening of this accessory use, so that we can ramp up the existing capabilities that were already there and were just prevented by law.”

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