Maryland’s New Composting Regulations

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Courtesy of BioCycle Magazine

After a year of comments and revisions, the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) is scheduled to publish its new rules for permitting composting facilities this month (December) in the Maryland Register for a final 30-day comment period. Initially proposed last January, the slightly revised composting regulations are expected to take effect in early 2015, unless further changes are required. If they go into effect on schedule, existing facilities will have a grace period for compliance until January 2017, although they must submit a form within 60 days after the regulations become effective.

“The draft regulations create a new type of permit for a composting facility,” explains Hilary Miller, deputy director of the Department’s land management administration. “With increasing interest from some counties in composting, particularly food scraps, the legislature passed a law in 2011 asking for a study to determine how to encourage it. Indeed, in 2012, only 8.5 percent of food scraps in Maryland were composted. “We just had two county sites (Howard and Prince George’s) that have opened for food waste composting, and now they will be able to expand with the new regulations,” adds Miller.

The MDE utilized the US Composting Council’s (USCC) Model Compost Rule Template in the process of drafting its new rules. The USCC’s template was developed several years ago by a task force comprised of state composting regulators, composting facility operators and other stakeholders. The template includes a three-tiered permit structure, with design and operating requirements based on materials composted and technology employed. The foundation of the tiers is the feedstock categories, which are based on the materials’ potential risks to human health and the environment.

“The USCC template was a starting point,” notes Kaley Laleker, administrative officer at MDE. “We used its tiered approach and feedstock types. The template also utilized a concept of contact water vs. storm water, and the need to manage them differently.” Contact water is defined by MDE as runoff that has contacted raw feedstocks or active composting material.

Feedstock Types And Tiers
The draft regulations divide feedstocks into three general types: Type 1 is yard trimmings; Type 2 includes food scraps, nonrecyclable paper, MDE-approved animal manure and bedding, MDE-approved industrial food processing materials, animal mortalities and compostable products; and Type 3 covers biosolids, soiled diapers and mixed MSW. Natural wood waste, e.g., trees and stumps, is in its own category.

Facilities composting natural wood waste only and Type 3 feedstocks are covered under existing MDE regulations/permits and will not be subjected to the new rules. MDE created two new tiers, with Tier 2 divided into smaller and larger facilities. Tier 1 regulations are for facilities composting only Type 1 materials, i.e., yard trimmings. Tier 2 is for facilities composting Types 1 and 2 materials. Tier 2-Small applies to operations producing less than or equal to 10,000 cubic yards (cy)/year of compost. Tier 2-Large covers facilities producing >10,000 cy/year of compost.

The regulations allow for individual and general permit applications. Laleker notes that an individual permit would apply when the composter needed to include site-specific details or request a variance not included in the regulations. “If you wanted to propose a different kind of pad, for example, that is allowed if you can show that it would protect the environment in the same way as the new regulation,” she explains. A general permit would apply to a facility that can comply with all of the regulations without a variance. Miller notes that “pad size is likely to be most common variance” request.

Read the full article in BioCycle Magazine

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