As of October 1, 2020, all stores in Howard County are required to charge a Plastic Bag Fee of 5 cents per disposable plastic bag used. Businesses keep one cent from every five-cent fee and the remainder is collected by Howard County Government and put into a Disposable Plastics Reduction Fund. In 2021 the Office of Community Sustainability began a new grant program for Plastics Reduction and Environmental Protection (PREP). Environmental non-profits in Howard County can apply for funding projects that will make our community cleaner and greener.
2021 PREP Grant Projects
Total Funds Awarded: $241,565
In 2021, nine grantees were provided funds to complete 10 different projects. Read about each of the grantees and their projects below.
Community Ecology Institute
Project: Waste Reduction and Reuse Education at Freetown Farm
Community Ecology Institute is providing experiential environmental education focused on reducing plastic pollution, reusing and repairing materials, and protecting natural ecosystems and watersheds.
The PREP grant helps CEI with infrastructure and development of workshops, classes and hands-on environmental education where experts will share knowledge and skills fundamental to both environmental sustainability and the reduction of waste.
Howard County Conservancy- (2 Projects)
Project 1: Student Stream Studies and School Yard Assessments
HCPSS students will complete 36 stream studies and 13 schoolyard assessments resulting in a watershed report card and an annual watershed summit that will showcase the results of the student research.
The PREP grant helps provide materials and supplies such as water chemistry kits, plants, trees and stream clean up kits. The grant also funds teacher training, additional support staff and three professional development workshops for teachers throughout the year.
Project 2: Reusable Container Program at Vantage House Senior Living
Howard County Conservancy is working with the Vantage House Senior Living to pilot a reusable to-go container system for their dining services that currently provides over 300 meals in single use plastics. Containers will be branded with the Vantage House logo to ensure they are returned and reused. Vantage House staff will be trained on washing procedures, and the program success will be monitored and promoted on social media, to encourage others to implement similar programs. This project was originally conceived by the local group Less Plastics Please. The Conservancy is acting as the fiscal agent for the grant and is seeing the project through.
The PREP grant funds five types of reusable containers, the collection boxes throughout the facility, and additional staffing to handle the grant management, outreach and education.
Friends of the Patapsco Valley State Park
Project: Mobile Visitor Center
Friends of the Patapsco Valley State Park’s mobile visitor center vehicle will visit the most populated areas within the Patapsco Valley State Park, and at least four locations outside the park, to give bilingual presentations about environmental education. Locations include the Howard County Conservancy, Howard County Recreation and Park’s Truck or Treat event, Robinson Nature Center and Howard County Wine in the Woods. Education will focus on promoting awareness and knowledge of water quality, water pollution, anti-littering, river and bay information, benefits of reducing plastics and disposables, and other environmental education programs.
The PREP grant will assist with staffing and event consumables.
Howard Community College
Project: Compostable Materials for Cafeteria Vendors
Howard Community College is replacing plastic serving ware with compostable materials in the cafeteria and cafe. Over Fall 2021 they are testing multiple compostable serving ware brands, as well as dispensing and collecting equipment, and evaluating them based on cost, usability and customer preference. Howard Community College will host stakeholder meetings, provide educational signage and programming. Once the program launches, disposal of compostable items and food waste will be redirected to county compost operations instead of landfills.
The PREP grant will fund the testing of compostable alternatives, and dispensing and collecting equipment, as well as help fund a contractor to transport waste to the Howard County Composting Facility.
Project: EcoAmbassador Community Assessments
Howard Ecoworks is recruiting students from HCPSS schools to serve as an EcoAmbassador. The EcoAmbassador will be trained on environmental stewardship, behavior change principles, Howard County Plastic Bag Fee, associated legislation, project management and Howard Ecoworks operations and management functions. Each EcoAmbassador will be assigned a mentor from the Uplift program that will guide them in creating a community action plan to identify hotspot areas of trash and locating the potential source of the trash. The ambassadors will complete a community assessment, engage at least three local partners, coordinate and lead two litter clean up events, one education event and develop social media content.
The PREP grant funds EcoAmbassador stipends, supply kits such as gloves and trash bags, outreach materials such as flyers and posters, and administrative overhead.
Patapsco Heritage Greenway
Project: Water Quality Monitoring Programs
Patapsco Heritage Greenway is expanding a current volunteer-based water quality monitoring program by increasing the number of monitoring locations by at least three, and their volunteers to at least 250, developing an outreach program to provide data results to the public, and adding macroinvertebrate identification as a monitoring parameter. The outreach program will develop quarterly events to update the community on water quality data collection, education on data analysis, and offer action items to improve water quality.
The PREP grant funds water quality monitoring supplies, waders, and salary and benefits for a program coordinator.
Savage Community Association
Project: Park Educational Demonstrations and Activities
Savage Community Association is developing unique learning opportunities for schools, individuals and park visitors at the new Savage Park Extension. SCA will construct four themed resource kits each year with a focus on plastics reduction, anti-littering, protecting endangered species, controlling stormwater, forest conservation, reforestation, and improving water quality. The kits will include links to online support materials with suggestions for students of all ages and abilities for hands on activities. Two or more hands-on experiments will be constructed for group use in the park. The experiments will be displayed during the day and moved to a storage facility overnight. Videos of the demonstrations will be uploaded to YouTube for easy access by teachers, students, library staff and scout troops. SCA is recruiting Girl Scouts for assistance. Finally, SCA in collaboration with the Office of Community Sustainability and Recs and Parks, plans to develop interpretive signage to challenge park visitors with questions such as “why does the Little Patuxent make a 90 degree turn here?” with answers by QR code.
The PREP grant funds materials for educational kits, signage, displays, video equipment, youth team leader polos and wages for the production and mailing of the newsletter.
Project: Testing New Products Made From Recycled Materials
Upcycled is building and testing solution-oriented products from recycled materials, including an interlocking brick and beam system, a table, a bench, and a flower bed. Upcycled will host recycling collections to gather 300lbs of plastics to be used in the manufacturing of the test products. In addition, they will host four trail and community clean ups and one park clean up. Products will be tested by an external consultant.
The PREP grant helps cover overhead costs, operational costs, manufacturing equipment and molds, additional materials and tools to build structure and consulting services.
Project: Reusable Middle School Lunch Materials
VolunTeens is educating students at three HCPSS schools on the need to reduce plastics in the lunchroom through the distribution of reusable lunch totes containing bamboo cutlery, silicone sandwich bags, metal water bottles, and literature on reducing plastic consumption. Students are further engaged through an art and social media contest. The winner of the art contest will have their design printed on the reusable totes. VolunTeens will also produce at least one video on the importance of plastic reduction.
The PREP grant helps fund the purchase of the reusable totes and items within, gift card prizes for contest winners, and a part time assistant to coordinate the logistics of the project.