City of College Park, Maryland

Backyard Composting

Backyard Composting Program
Click here for slide show on composting
Updated 5/30/18


Compost Bin Picture

College Park Residential
Back Yard Compost Bin Program

While supplies last, City residents
can purchase
compost bins from the City for $20.00
non-residents $40.00!

A bin is on display at the Department of Public Works
(9217 51st Avenue, College Park).
Purchase the bins Monday-Friday 8am-4pm.

For more information call 240-487-3590 or Email

Why should residents compost?

To recognize the amount of food wasted. A big benefit to food scraps composting is that it helps people monitor and then reduce their food waste, estimated at between $1,350 & $2,275 per household each year.*  

For $20 and a modest effort households can save thousands of dollars by modifying their food purchases to reduce waste.

* Source: Bloom, American Wasteland, pages 24 & 187

  • One piece injection molded construction — no seams to come apart or assembly required
  • Large capacity — 11 cubic feet/311 litres
  • 33” high x 31” wide (83.8cm high x 78.7cm wide)
  • Convenient 12” x 16” offset, front harvest door
  • Twist locking lid
  • Vertical and horizontal columnar ventilation
  • Conical shape means nothing gets stuck in corners and also provides for ease of lifting off to access the entire pile
  • Rodent resistant
  • Easy, large access 20.25 inch (51.43 cm) diameter lid opening
  • Made of 100% recycled materials 

A typical U.S. household throws away an estimated 474 pounds of food scraps each year; less than 3% of this organic material is composted. Food waste makes up a large component of municipal solid waste (MSW) stream. (Source: EPA/other see pie chart)EPA pie chart

Food scrap diversion can easily be incorporated into the household routine, especially for those that already perform source separation of recyclable materials from trash.

Providing residents an option to compost at their home, as part of a residential food scrap waste diversion program, substantially reduces costs for the City and its residents. Households that compost at home reduce labor, equipment and energy costs of collection and associated tipping fees.

Backyard composting helps to protect the environment while providing a beneficial compost product a resident can use to enrich the soil in their garden. Residential composting is a component of a greater sustainable locavore habit.

Compost is a remarkable substance that:

  • Provides a slow, steady supply of balanced nutrition to plants. When incorporated in the soil, compost has available nutrients for plant uptake
  • Can help buffer the soil pH to improve plant growth
  • Improves soil structure with organic matter that increases water holding capability in sandy soils, and increases drainage and aeration in clay soils
  • Suppresses fungal and bacterial organisms that cause plant diseases
  • Compost in not a fertilizer, it is an ecosystem. It seeds the soil with billions of diverse life forms that works together to improve soil function and help plant roots absorb nutrients
How much waste is composted?

Sadly, the EPA estimates of the amount of residential waste only about 3% is composted. Food scraps and soiled paper make up the largest segment about 21%, of municipal waste going into most landfills.

While significant percentages of paper, aluminum, plastics and other materials are being recycled, we are barely making a dent in residential organics recycling (composting).

What are greens & browns?

  • GREENS ARE: vegetables, fruits, grains, coffee grounds with filter, tea bags, nut shells, green plant cuttings, annual weeds (no seeds), hedge trimmings, grass clippings (best to leave mowed grass in place on your lawn). Also natural fibers such as cotton pads/swabs, cat, dog & even human hair, worn natural cotton, wool, & leather cloths (cut into small pieces – no polyester).
  • BROWNS ARE: eggshells, wood chips, branches (modest size), leaves, and pine needles.
  • FOCUS ON COMPOSTING THESE BROWNS: soiled paper products such as paper towels, napkins, tissue paper, compostable paper plates & cups (no coatings) and pizza or other soiled food boxes (tear into smaller pieces). Leaves can be added if you don't have much paper.

What to compost?

Mix GREENS, materials with a low carbon to nitrogen ratio, & BROWNS with a higher ratio. Greens have carbon to nitrogen ratios around 15-25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Browns are high with 50-300 parts carbon to nitrogen. The ideal composting mix is around 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Fortunately, by mixing food scraps with soiled paper products, your mix should be almost ideal.

As long as you are composting a variety of materials, don’t worry too much about the exact ratio of the mix. EVERYTHING EVENTUALLY BREAKS DOWN INTO COMPOST. 

Are vermin an issue?

Not usually, other than a crafty raccoon that learned how to open the bin door. The simple solution was to rotate the bin door toward a tree to prevent opening.

To be safe residents can dig down a few inches so the compost bin bottom edge is below ground level.

Does compost stink?

No! If you avoid composting meats, dairy and oily items, odor is unlikely. In fact, compost should have a pleasant odor like humus dug up in the woods. Mild odor may occur if the compost pile is too wet causing anaerobic conditions. The simple solution is to aerate the pile with a fork or compost tool.