Recycling Food Scraps into Gardens

Sep 07, 2009 By Don Comis
Recycling Food Scraps into Gardens
ARS scientists are working on ways to reduce losses of methane and ammonia from compost, particularly from food residuals.

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) Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) in Beltsville, Md.

There, they are mixed with woodchips, leaves and other organic residuals. Several months later, some of the finished is delivered to the National Mall for use in gardens at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building.

For Patricia Millner, a microbiologist at the ARS Environmental Microbial and 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 with microbiologist Walter Mulbry, who works in the ARS Environmental 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 U.S. Capitol.

Millner also makes compost available for other federal “green” projects—such as roof gardens, rain gardens and other landscaping designs—to retain water and reduce runoff at federal sites in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

As part of Millner’s 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 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.

More information: You can read more about this and other research involving local food production and sustainable agriculture in the September 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Provided by Agricultural Research Service

Explore further: Researchers provide guide to household water conservation

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Indoor Composting With NatureMill (w/Video)

Apr 22, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Many people throw out organic food waste. When I do this, I feel vaguely guilty, knowing I should probably compost it for my backyard garden. However, last time we tried to compost, the neighbors ...

Backyard gardens need good food-safety practices, too

Jun 21, 2008

The recent tomato contamination outbreak has many people thinking about growing their own garden-fresh fruits and vegetables. But a food-safety specialist in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences says it's not where ...

Coffee Grounds Perk up Compost Pile With Nitrogen

Jul 03, 2008

Coffee grounds can be an excellent addition to a compost pile. The grounds are relatively rich in nitrogen, providing bacteria the energy they need to turn organic matter into compost.

Less trouble at mill, thanks to earthworms

Jul 16, 2009

Waste from the textiles industry could with the assistance of earthworms and some animal manure become a rich compost for agriculture, according to a report in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution.

Recycled garden compost reduces phosphorus in soils

Jun 01, 2007

Broccoli, eggplant, cabbage and capsicum grown with compost made from recycled garden offcuts have produced equivalent yields to those cultivated by conventional farm practice, but without the subsequent build up of phosphorus.

Recommended for you

New water balance calculation for the Dead Sea

6 hours ago

The drinking water resources on the eastern, Jordanian side of the Dead Sea could decline severe as a result of climate change than those on the western, Israeli and Palestinian side. This is the conclusion ...

Studying wetlands as a producer of greenhouse gases

12 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Wetlands are well known for their beneficial role in the environment. But UConn Honors student Emily McInerney '15 (CAHNR) is studying a less widely known role of wetlands – as a major producer ...

User comments : 0