Curbside Recycling Canned, Task Is Piled On Central Site

November 11, 1990|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Contributing writer

Curbside recycling is out and a mammoth trash-sorting facility is in as part of a plan by Harford administrators to meet state-ordered reductions in garbage.

After delays, glitches and plenty of fine-tuning, Harford's plan to reduce county waste by the state-mandated 15 percent is ready for shipment to the County Council, said Robert Donald, director of the county Department of Public Works.

Over the last few weeks, revisions ordered by County Executive Habern Freeman Jr. were inserted into the plan, which could land before the council in December, said Donald.

"It's the last draft I'm going to make, come hell or high water," he said.

Changes in the plan's timetable and its "areas of emphasis," were among the revisions ordered by Freeman, said Donald. The council must approve the plan, which would be included as part of the required two-year update of the county's solid waste management plan. State environmental administrators also must approve the plan.

"We might have been late in getting our plan together, but I assure you it'll be a plan that's cost-effective, efficient and way ahead of anything that's done in the state," Freeman said.

Initial estimates for the cost of the trash-sorting facility are about $5 million, said Donald, though he believes the county ultimately could get one for less.

It remains uncertain how the facility will be paid for, although a bond issue is a possibility, he said.

Harford's plan must be in place by January 1994, when all Maryland counties must make reductions in the amount of garbage entering landfills.

Foremost in the Harford plan is the trash-sorting facility, which plucks recyclable material -- glass, metal, plastic, aluminum and paper products -- out of the garbage. The unit would be built at the head of the county's waste-to-energy trash incinerator located on Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Nearly all garbage generated by Harford residents would pass through the trash-sorter, Donald said.

That's the main advantage over curbside recycling, which is notably absent in the plan, Donald said.

A several-month pilot program of curbside recycling conducted earlier this year by the county in the Aberdeen area produced disappointing results, dimming its attractiveness as a viable part of the waste-reduction plan.

While saying he was satisfied with the recycling plan, Freeman had made it clear he was not disappointed to see curbside recycling excluded.

"To me, it's an awful lot of effort and an awful lot of money for very little results," the county executive said.

However, although residents will not be mandated to sort their garbage, both Donald and Freeman stressed that home-recycling efforts should continue.

"Those who are recycling, God bless 'em, and please keep it up," Freeman said.

Donald said he and other county administrators were highly impressed with similar facilities they visited in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and New Jersey.

"You don't have to be separating garbage in the home," he said, noting that similar facilities also are popular in Europe. "You get 100 percent participation with this. People will be participating whether they want to or not."

In addition to sorting recyclable materials such as glass and aluminum, the sorting facility also would be able to remove grass clippings, branches and other yard waste. Nationwide, yard waste makes up about 20 percent of a municipality's waste stream, and as much as 50 percent in autumn.

"If we can pull out a majority of the yard waste, we really put a big dent in our goal of 15 percent," Donald said.

Another facet of the plan is for the county to work with county businesses and industry to develop recycling programs. Also the plan also will call for two additional recycling centers like the Susquehannock Environmental Center near Bel Air. Likely locations will be near Joppatowne and in the Aberdeen-Havre de Grace area, Donald said.

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