Recycling Food Scraps into Gardens
By Don Comis
September 4, 2009
Each weekday, food scraps are collected from the
Maryland Food Distribution Authority in
Jessup, Md., and from small local food service and marketing establishments.
Materials that do not contain metal, glass, or plastic are trucked to the
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) in Beltsville,
There, they are mixed with woodchips, leaves and other organic
residuals. Several months later, some of the finished compost is delivered to
the National Mall for use in gardens at the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building.
Millner, a microbiologist at the ARS
Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory at BARC, this is part of research on
ways to reduce the release of methane from landfills by diverting food
residuals and other organic materials to composting. She conducts this research
Mulbry, who works in the ARS
Management and Byproduct Utilization Laboratory at BARC.
In 2009, they are supplying compost to the inaugural People's
Garden, part of a new program for creating a community garden at each
USDA facility worldwide, as well as for landscaping at the
U.S. Botanic Garden and the
Millner also makes compost available for other federal
green projectssuch as roof gardens, rain gardens and other
landscaping designsto retain water and reduce runoff at federal sites in
the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
As part of Millners efforts to help the federal government model
ways to compost food scraps, she has a Cooperative Research and Development
Agreement with RCM, LLC of Maryland to capture ammonia in the final compost to
boost its nitrogen content for fertilizer use. She is comparing several types
of insulated composting containers for greenhouse gas emission reduction and
other cost-benefit characteristics.
Currently, about half of the carbon and nitrogen in composting
materials is lost to the air, rather than being captured in the compost.
about this and other research involving local food production and sustainable
agriculture in the September 2009 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.