Wednesday, March 30, 2005

How not to feed squirrels

Bottom view of experimental food digester

Reducing as much of my household waste stream as possible means keeping food scraps out of the trash basket. Our free County-issued compost bins are great for leaves and grass. But, they are not rodent-resistant. Worm bins are one alternative ~ that's an entry for another day. "Food digesters" are another option. I'd read about them, and used a commercially-available one a few years back. Before trying a home-grown option at full-scale, I did what we do with new ideas here in the Division: I began a pilot test.

Last October, my youthful Support Staff helped me drill holes into two buckets: one metal and the other plastic, each with a capacity of about three gallons. We then dug holes, and buried each bucket about 2/3 of the way. This accomplished, we began to add food scraps, including meat. (It's the meat scraps which are especially problematic in a "conventional" compost bin.)

We've been checking on the "digesters" regularly; watch for continued reports of our progress. One of the first things we learned is that the metal can has one big drawback: it rusts. Within days, that lid was rusted shut, only to be removed with great difficulty. Since then, we don't close it tightly, lest it never come off again...

What's a "Beauty Spot"?

What's beautiful about a place to dump trash?!

The"Beauty Spots" were started by the County's Division of Highway Services (DHS) in the mid-1980s in an effort to eliminate roadside trash dumping. Roads free of litter and illegal dumping are beautiful roads... and there you have the name...

The Beauty Spots, or "convenience centers", as they are formally known, are located at DHS transportation depots: one in Poolesville at 19200 Jerusalem Road and one in Damascus at 26149 Ridge Road. While DHS still provides the daily operations at these sites, the Division of Solid Waste Services manages the contracts for hauling waste from them.

Typical materials received at the centers are large, bulky items such as home remodeling debris, furniture, white goods, and yard waste (Poolesville only).

No more scrap metal or yard trim at Damascus Beauty Spot

With warmer weather, thoughts turn to... spring cleaning! Here's a friendly reminder that scrap metal and yard trim are no longer accepted at the Damascus Beauty Spot.

So, now what? It's simple: look no further than your curb! Both of these materials are picked up weekly in the County's curbside recycling program. No special arrangements are need for collection of your leaves, grass, or brush. Please set up scrap metal collections prior to your recycling day.

Why the change? There is not enough space at the Damascus depot to set scrap metal and yard trim aside for recycling. Until now, it was all handled as trash. The curbside collection program will let us recycle that material. Also, the Beauty Spot creates lots of traffic. We're hoping that the curbside program will save many of you a trip out there, reducing the number of vehicles coming to and through the facility.

Beauty Spot address + hours

Monday, March 28, 2005

Those Blue Monstrosities

Simply put, the new paper recycling carts are big because our County's recycling goal is big: our aim is to recycle 50% of our waste stream. Paper is a significant part of that stream. Many residents continue to think that our recycling program remains limited to newspapers and their inserts. In fact,our program was expanded a few years ago to include virtually all waste paper. The primary exceptions are plastic-, wax-, and foil-coated paper, and that which has been soiled by food, etc. Cardboard is a large component of the paper we receive. The ever-increasing popularity of online ordering generates a great amount of this commodity. And, we want it all!

We don't expect the carts to be completely full of paper in any given week. Actually, another reason for the big carts is to allow residents to fill them with air! In the past, equipment contraints required us to ask that residents flatten boxes before putting them out for recycling collection. New truck machinery has changed that, and we are now able to take unflattened boxes. The carts' large capacity means that folks can just toss in cereal, tissue, shoe, etc. boxes as-is, regardless of whether that "wastes" space -- there's plenty of room in the cart to accomodate these.

We realize that the blue carts will not suit the needs of every County household. Still, we are pleased to have been able to add this container style to the selection of "recycling tools" we offer to residents.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Venturing into new territory

For a number of years, the "Behind the Scenes" course I coordinate has given folks living and/or working in Montgomery County a first-hand look into the work and programs of the Division of Solid Waste Services. By touring our facilities and by speaking directly with the managers of our programs, they come away with a much deeper understanding about what we do and why.

I ask participants to complete a number of evaluations throughout the course. Without fail, one of the primary complaints has been that, even though we covered lots of ground together, they still have lots of questions.

Leaving a course with questions can be frustrating, but it's also a mark of success. Namely, the topics and discussions have been thought-provoking.

With this blog, I'm essentially taking "Behind the Scenes" online, with entries addressing the questions we receive at our Customer Service Line, from website emails, and elsewhere. It's an experiment. Let us know what you think (or would like to know about the Division's work).

And, just as with the "Behind the Scenes" course, I'll periodically evaluate how it's going, with a final evaluation six months from now.