Nearly four years ago, Browning-Ferris Industries had only two recycling plants in the country. Today there are more than 65.
The latest plant, a 42,000-square-foot facility with the capacity to process close to 300 tons of refuse a day, was dedicated Wednesday in Elkridge.
The plant is expected to increase substantially the company's presence in the Baltimore region as BFI goes after local government recycling contracts and commercial customers.
The plant, which has been in operation for a month, is processing approximately 100 tons of materials daily, including bottles, paper, plastics and aluminum, said BFI District Manager Jim Stone. The materials are collected in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, although the company wants to expand to other area counties as well.
To bring the plant to capacity, the company expects to drastically increase its processing of commercial waste. Currently, residential recycling accounts for 75 percent of the plant's effort, while commercial recycling makes up the other 25 percent.
"But that will flip-flop very rapidly," Stone said.
At a dedication ceremony Wednesday, BFI Chief Executive William D. Ruckelshaus, a former Nixon administration official, was on hand to herald the $4 million facility, located off Route 1 on Cemetery Lane.
Ruckelshaus called the plant a "symbol of the strength of our customers' demand for recycling," adding that "the materials just keep showing up."
The Elkridge Recyclery was the third BFI plant dedicated last week, Ruckelshaus said. Another plant opened recently in Fairfax County, Va., and 10 more are expected to open throughout North America in 1992.
BFI previously leased a 25,000-square-foot facility next door to the new plant. The new facility's capacity is expected to give BFI a substantial leg up on winning new county recycling contracts.
Currently, BFI provides curb service to 28,000 homes, approximately 40 percent of all county households. And BFI has been awarded a contract to service an additional 7,800 homes starting July 1.
Together, the contracts are worth approximately $1.4 million annually.
Countywide residential recycling service is expected by the end of 1993. But officials were equivocal over whether BFI was the front-runner in efforts to win future contracts.
"We certainly appreciate their being here because that creates a convenient market for these materials," said Linda Fields, the county's recycling manager. "Previously, we've driven things as far away as Finksburg."
Approximately 25 percent to 50 percent of the waste collected by BFI is actually recyclable. The rest must be disposed of in landfills, said Ruckelshaus.
Other countries -- including Taiwan, Korea, Japan and parts of Europe -- provide a growing market for recycled materials. Domestic markets are, so far, unable to absorb the amount of material created by plants like BFI's.
"Markets are not developing at the same speed as the public's desire to recycle," Ruckelshaus added. "But we need the public not to waiver or lose heart because it's all being driven by public demand."