13 November 2009

Compost Testing Yields Good Results

Since the start of this semester, it has been my goal to put some science behind the composting that goes on at Washington College, and yes, we do compost by the way. Mid-September, I met with Dr. Sherman, associate professor of chemistry at Washington College who specializes in soil chemistry. She agreed to guide me through the testing and soon I was on my way to determining the quality of our compost.

The procedures were taken from the manual Test Methods for the Examination of Composting and Compost (TMECC), developed by the U.S. Composting Council. The purpose of following these procedures rather than our own is to have the ability to analyze our compost according to widely used standards. Also, in the future we may want to market our compost to the public, and following the TMECC procedures will allow us to put a Seal of Testing Assurance on our compost.

So far, three tests have been performed on the compost from last year, which finished decomposing over the summer. It has been tested for pH, conductivity (soluble salt concentration), and moisture. It is still in the process of being tested for organic matter, which will tell us the percentage of carbon-based materials in the compost. This does not, however, tell us the carbon to nitrogen ratio which is most important during the process of composting, determining the ability for the pile to decompose aerobically and at the correct temperature. This test is quite complicated, so we must send samples to select labs with the proper equipment.

These are the results:

pH: 7.43
Conductivity: 10.83 dS/m
Percent Moisture: 42.8%

Analysis of the results:

A pH within the range of 6.0 and 7.5 is optimum for compost according to the TMECC. In this range, necessary nutrients are available for microbes and the compost can decompose readily. If the pH were below or above this range, necessary biological processes would not occur. A pH within this range indicates that nutrients necessary for plant growth are available. The presence of toxic metals is also an important factor in compost quality. Toxic metals are indicated by a pH less than 5, so we do not need to be concerned about toxic metals in our compost.

Electrical conductivity measures the soluble salt concentration in a sample. Salts are important factors in compost quality because high concentrations can damage seedlings, prevent or delay germination, and decrease nutrient availability. Low concentrations may indicate low fertility levels. Typical compost samples have a conductivity of 1.0 to 10.0 dS/m, and although our reading was slightly higher, it is not excessively high and will not likely damage plants when mixed in with soil.

The percent moisture measures the amount of water in the sample. Percent moisture does not really affect its quality, but rather its ease of handling and transportation. A preferred moisture range is 40-50%, so our compost should be easy to handle.

By the end of the semester we should have results for the organic matter tests as well as results from a sample being sent to a soil analysis lab to determine carbon/nitrogen ratio.

You may be wondering about the actual application of the compost on campus. Some of the compost from last year’s pile has just been applied in front of Daly Hall. Now with these data we can rest assured that the plants are growing in quality compost. Look for signs in front of Daly indicating the use of the compost and be on the lookout for more signs in other areas in the future!


11 November 2009

The Cutest Little Trash Collector

That would be me, apparently. At least that’s what I was called, while collecting the recycling the other morning.

The funny thing is, I basically am a trash collector. Some people like to make a big fuss and insist that we’re collecting recycling, as if this makes the act of collecting it inherently different from collecting trash. The end use is different, certainly. The recycling gets, you know, recycled. But when it comes down to actually going through every building and pulling out bags of bottles and cans and hauling them all over campus, it feels a lot like trash collection to me, except the trash goes straight in the compacter. We have to sort the recycling. By hand.

It’s the sorting that really gets to you, after a while. It would be one thing if you grabbed a bag of recycling, and it was full of clean bottles and cans that had been rinsed and emptied. But chances are someone threw a full cup of coffee in the recycling, and neither the cup nor the coffee are recyclable. Most of our bins around campus sport prominent labels that read “BOTTLES AND CANS ONLY”, but somehow we consistently end up with objects which are neither bottles or cans. Paper coffee cups are a popular addition, as are those greenware cups from the dining hall. Hate to break it to you, campus, but just because it says “greenware,” they do not suddenly become recyclable. They are made out of corn. Technically they could be composted if we had a way to collect them and a much bigger composting system. But they can not go in with the petroleum based plastic bottles.

The thing that really gets me is how, even when we put a big giant label on something that says “NO CUPS,” you will lift the lid and, surprise, there are cups.

This has me a bit worried. Is our campus illiterate? This idea was suggested to me by another staff member who was astonished by the amount of trash I displayed in one bag of recycling I had pulled. “But why would people but trash in the recycling?” he asked, perplexed. Possibly they can’t read the signs.

But we decided to start asking students, and see if there was another answer. It seems unlikely that students were able to get accepted to the college if they were unable to read simple words like “NO” and “CUPS.” The common answer seems to be that there aren’t enough trash cans. It is far more convenient to put your trash in one of the many, many recycling bins on campus than to hunt down a trash can.

Now wait a minute- I thought we didn’t have enough bins? This is what I hear all the time, when people are trying to tell me that we don’t collect enough recycling, that recycling isn’t convenient enough, that I need to buy more bins. But, as it turns out, we have too many bins. And not enough trash cans.

Unfortunately that’s not something I’m allowed to put in my budget. Any ideas, dear readers, on how to keep the trash out of the recycling bins, in lieu of buying appropriate trash receptacles? Because the cutest little trash collector is getting a little tired of getting covered in coffee every morning.


04 November 2009

One Day Only, Hazardous Waste and Recycling Drop Off




SATURDAY, NOV. 7 - 8 am to 2 pm - DENTON, MD - Free !

Click below for the full announcement.

Household HAZ Waste & eCycling events on Saturday, Nov. 7 - (One Day Only)

Rain or Shine, 8 am to 2 pm

Caroline County Public Works, Denton, MD

For your information – SEE DETAILS BELOW or visit www.midshorerecycling.org regarding specifics about:

* A one day collection of old fuels, solvents, lawn & garden pesticides, oil-based painting products and many more items, including Mercury Thermometers.

* A Recycling event for electronics such as computers, computer peripherals, TV's and many other electronic items.

From West:
Take Route 404 East to Denton (stay on 404 East, don't take Business 404)
Cross Choptank River
Right at Denton / Greensboro Exit (McDonalds, Pizza Hut)
Right onto Route 619 South (6th Street)
Right on Wilmuth.
For GPS & Mapping programs, the street address is 520 Wilmuth St, Denton, MD 21629

Future Events:
* Spring 2010 - Queen Anne's County, Date & Location TBA
* Fall 2010 - Talbot County, Date & Location TBA
* Spring 2011 - Kent County, Date & Location TBA
* Fall 2011 - Caroline County, Date & Location TBA

Who May Participate:
* Residents of Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne's & Talbot Counties
* NO Business, Industrial or Commercial Farm Waste
* Residency and Household Status Verification will be requested

What Will Be Accepted:
* Gasoline, Gas/oil Mixes, Fuels
* Acids
* Cleaners
* Solvents
* Automotive Fluids
* Bleach
* Ammonia
* Pool Chemicals
* Dark Room Chemicals
* Household and Lawn & Garden Pesticides
* Insecticides & Herbicides
* Painting Products: Oil Based Paints, Paint Thinner, Turpentine, Wood Preservatives, Wood Strippers, etc.
* Dispose of solidified LATEX paint with trash - to solidify, add dirt, mulch, kitty litter, etc.

Pre-arrange large loads. Empty fuel containers returned upon request. Stall will unload vehicles.

What Will NOT be accepted:
* Explosives
* Ammunition (contact Fire Marshall at (410) 822-7609)
* Medical Waste
* Radioactive Materials
* Picric Acid (Don't transport - call MDE at (866) 633-4686 or HazMat Co.)
* Compressed Gas Cylinders (propane, refrigerant, etc.)
* Asbestos
* Smoke Detectors

* Buy quantities that match the task
* Try to use materials up
* Find a use or reuse for materials
* Follow label instructions
* Label all items & store in proper containers
* Choose safer products & substitutes
* Keep out of reach of children
* Put dirty empty cans in trash
* Recycle clean & empty metal cans
* Recycle lead acid vehicle & marine batteries at retailer
* Recycle motor oil, antifreeze and tires at existing transfer stations during normal operating hours
* Motor Oil & Anti-Freeze Dropoff Locations
* Recycle Rechargeable (Ni-Cad, etc.) batteries at Radio Shack, True Value and other location see www.rbrc.org
* Don't bring latex paint
* Solidify & dispose of latex paint with trash

Project Partners:

Midshore Region - (410) 758-6605
Caroline County - (410) 479-4040 or (410) 479-0520
Kent County - (410) 778-7448
Queen Anne's County - (410) 758-2697
Talbot County - (410) 770-8170
Midshore Landfill (MES) - (410) 820-8383
MD Dept of the Environment - (800) 633-6101

Funded by Midshore Counties (Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne's, Talbot) & available grants.

Mercury Thermometer Collection

Turn in old mercury thermometers:

* Weekdays at either the Kent or Queen Anne's County Health Departments
o Kent County Health Dept (410) 778-1350
o Queen Anne's County Health Dept (410) 758-0720

* At the Fall 2009 HHW Collection Event
o Where & When:
+ Saturday, November 7, 2009
+ 8:00am to 2:00pm
+ Caroline County Dept of Public Works - Denton, MD
+ See Directions Above

Visit the Maryland Department of the Environment's Mercury Website

Consumer Electronics Recycling

Where & When: (also see new drop-off sites below)
* Saturday, November 7, 2009
* 8:00am to 2:00pm
* Caroline County Dept of Public Works - Denton, MD
* See Directions Above

What will be accepted:

* CPUs, Keyboards, Monitors*, Mice, Printers, Cables, Modems
* Computer Speakers, Scanners, External Disc Drives, most other peripherals
* Note - for computer equipment only, see the list of new county drop-off locations below.

Other Electronics:
* Televisions*, Remote Controls, VCRs, CD Players, DVD Players
* Calculators, Cell Phones, Telephones, Radios, CB Radios, Stereos^
* Facsimile Machines, Answering Machines, Copiers

Pre-arrange Large Loads
*Recycling fees for TVs and Monitors will be waived for the November 7, 2009 collection event.

Please assist with unloading, if able.

What will be NOT be accepted:
* Large or small appliances, power tools, household items, manuals, diskettes, packaging
^Wooden-cased TVs, stereos or speakers

General E-Cycling Information:
* Typical monitors & televisions have 4 pounds of lead
* Lead & other toxic and valuable metals can be recovered and reused
* These bulky items with toxic materials can be kept out of the landfill
* This event is a pilot program with the Maryland Department of the Environment, Midshore Regional Recycling Program and eCycling partners.

New - Computer recycling drop-off sites were recently set up in each Midshore County for computers & computer peripherals;

Kent County - Nicholson Drop-Off Center near Chestertown;
Queen Anne’s County - Grasonville Transfer Station in (8-5 daily - except Thursdays & Sundays);
Caroline County - Hobbs Transfer Station near Denton (Tues, Wed, Fri 11-6; and Sat. 8-4 ) ;
Talbot County - Chesapeake Center at 713 Dover Road in Easton, by appointment on weekdays with Lisa Korrell at 410-822-4122, for details, there is $10 fee for monitors (TV's also accepted: $15 fee) .