By Francine Steininger
Burleith’s first-ever Green Picnic Challenge was a great success, thanks in no small part to our Green Picnic Champion, Max Langenbacher! This year we replaced all plastic cups, silverware, plates, garbage bags, etc., with compostable materials which more quickly and easily transform into a usable product with a second life.
Max manned the waste station for four hours, making sure that compostable items went into the compost bins, recyclables deposited into the recycle bags, and trash into the trash bags. Max explained to interested picnic-goers what composting was all about and why it was different from recycling. Max reported that at least 20 people asked about composting and somewhere around 50 people came by to share their enthusiasm for Burleith’s efforts to go green. (Julie Lawson, director of the Mayor's Office of the Clean City, attended and informally connected with residents about her office's work and how Burleith can address composting, recycling, and waste and litter reduction.)
Even though we had about 250 people at the picnic instead of the anticipated 150, we only filled at most three bags of trash! That is definitely something to brag about. On the green side, we filled five bins with food scraps and compostable materials (70 gallons) and collected about six bags of recyclables. Veteran Compost, our composting partner who provided and collected the bins afterwards, reported that the compost was of excellent quality (great job, Max!), with a very low contamination rate (a few plastic items and a can of coke). Since we had about 100 more people than expected, we did run out of the compostable materials by the end of the picnic.
As of June 16, the waste collected from our picnic has been cooking in an aerated static pile on Veteran Compost’s 30-acre farm in Aberdeen, MD. Microbial activity will be working its magic for about four weeks by heating the contents up to 150 degrees. It will then be screened and cured for three months, the final product being a nutrition-rich compost that is used on Veteran Compost’s farm.
Even though we had a great first run at our Green Picnic, we can still improve. Max reported that a significant amount of food was thrown away. While this year, as opposed to previous years, it did go to good use, the best way to reduce waste is not to create it in the first place. Next year we hope to see people being a bit more conscientious about the amount of food they put on their plates, so that we are not throwing a large percent of it away. That applies to back at home too!