Howard County Composting Facility

I attended a public tour of the composting facility in the county where I life yesterday morning. There is an expansion of the facility being built now but the pilot program has been going on for several years – lots of ‘lessons learned’ being applied to the expansion that will allow more of the county – hopefully the area where I live – to have curbside compost pickup.

The part of the facility that is currently in operation starts with piles of compostables collected from homes and some farm waste (like horse manure).


After being chopped up, it is made into piles. The material is processed for about 45 days in the piles – moved around with bulldozers to get air to all the material so that the decomposers can work. The temperatures in the piles are high enough to kill seeds which is important to the users of compost as a soil enhancer.

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The piles are made over two pipes that pull air from through the pile and then

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Through wood chips and finished compost (the large pipe in the foreground has pipes that push air under the wood chips/finished compost on the other side) – an effective strategy to reduce odors. The only period when odors come through that filter – so far – has been after Christmas when the discarded trees are in the piles; the pine smell is not one that people are likely to complain about so kudos to the design!

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While we were there, there was a pile that was ready to be moved to the area where the compost cures; the work was done with a bulldozer…making multiple trips.

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The piles are covered with tarps during rains; the compost does need water, but the amount must be controlled. Run off from the piles and the area around them is controlled.

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The new facility under construction will have bunkers rather than piles which will increase the capacity per area over the design in use now. The design capacity must be sufficient to handle the large volume of leaves in the fall. In my case – I wouldn’t send most of my leaves to the compost facility since I have forest behind my house that has absorbed the leaves from my yard quite well. If my area is one of the lucky ones to be included in the expanded service, I’ll decide if sending the front yard leaves to composting is easier than raking them to the forest!

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