Since You Asked: November-December 2012

Since You Asked: November-December 2012

Questions and answers about the Bethesda area.

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Where is the fall leaf collection disposed of? Does it compost, or what? What happens to it several years later?
—A reader in Bethesda

Throughout the year, leaves and other yard waste are transported weekly from the curbsides of 211,000 single-family homes in Montgomery County to the Shady Grove Processing Facility & Transfer Station, according to Eileen Kao, chief of the Waste Reduction & Recycling Section of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Solid Waste Services.

Brush is shredded into 2-inch to 4-inch pieces of mulch, which county residents can pick up for free at the Derwood facility, Kao says.

Leaves and grass are transported by rail to the Montgomery County Compost Facility in Dickerson, where the mixture decomposes throughout the winter and spring.

“To give you an idea of the amount of time it takes to create our compost, a batch of leaves collected from area homes in the fall will be mixed with grass that comes in the following spring or summer, and composted,” Kao says. “Within nine to 12 months, the material is ready to be screened [for large pieces that have not decomposed, and for other contaminants], and then goes out as compost material.”

The county’s compost is sold under the brand name Leafgro at a variety of retail outlets and garden centers, including Strosniders and American Plant stores. The county netted $1.6 million in sales revenue from Leafgro in fiscal year 2012, Kao says.

After Halloween, what’s the best way to get rid of my pumpkin? Can I bring it to a county compost facility?
—A reader in Silver Spring

The county doesn’t currently compost anything related to food or food waste, so unless you’ve got your own compost bin or know someone who does, your pumpkin must go into the garbage, Kao says. However, the county is researching the feasibility of composting food waste, she adds, since it accounts for a significant portion of the county’s waste stream.

Photo by Stephen WalkerWhere do the clothes go when you drop them in the yellow “Planet Aid” boxes you see all over the county? And are there boxes that collect clothes that are distributed solely to Montgomery County’s needy residents?
—A reader in Chevy Chase

The roughly 90 million to 100 million pounds of clothes and shoes collected in Planet Aid boxes throughout the country each year are sold to distributors, who then sell the clothing at a low price to customers in the U.S. and in developing countries, according to Planet Aid. The nonprofit uses the proceeds to support more than 40 international development programs in 16 countries.

As for local organizations that help Montgomery County’s low-income population, the Rockville-based nonprofit Interfaith Works collects and distributes used clothing to needy Montgomery County residents at the Interfaith Clothing Center. Residents can drop off used clothing at 751 Twinbrook Parkway in Rockville from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Or, they can drop items in one of the 40 big green bins operated by the Clothing Recycling Company and scattered throughout the county.

Have a question you’d like answered about someone or something in the Bethesda area? Email Please include your name and the city in which you live.

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