Balto. Co. aims to widen its goals for recycling

September 17, 1992|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Staff Writer

Responding to criticism from environmental groups and fro some of its own members, the Baltimore County Council has decided to strengthen the county's recycling goals.

The move should come Monday night when the council votes on the county's revised 10-year solid-waste plan, which includes an option to build a garbage incinerator. A majority of the council supports that idea.

The council also will vote on amendments offered by council Chairman William A. Howard IV, R-6th, and Councilman Melvin G. Mintz, D-2nd, that would broaden the recycling goals.

State law requires local jurisdictions to submit plans for waste collection and disposal every 10 years. Baltimore County last submitted such a plan in 1985.

In June 1991, the state Department of the Environment mandated that every subdivision submit a revised plan incorporating plans for meeting the Maryland Recycling Act of 1988, which requires jurisdictions with more than 150,000 people to reduce waste 20 percent by Jan. 1, 1994. The updated plans ultimately must be accepted by the State Waste Management (( Administration.

Critics have said the revised 10-year plan prepared by the Baltimore County Department of Public Works does not have enough public input and is too vague. County officials have countered by saying the plan, which must be reviewed and updated every two years, was never intended to be detailed.

The amendments offered by Mr. Mintz and Mr. Howard would establish a detailed schedule for public debate on revisions of the 10-year solid-waste plan and call for increased efforts to bring the county more markets for recycled materials.

"We think the move toward curbside recycling is just moving too slowly," Mr. Mintz said.

According to the plan, the county was to extend curbside recycling for mixed paper and lawn debris to 55,000 households by July 1. That goal already has been reached. Mr. Mintz and Mr. Howard propose to increase the goal to 85,000 households by Jan. 1, 1993.

Critics point to Baltimore, which has set a goal of 100 percent curbside recycling. The critics also want to emphasize curbside recycling of mixed containers, including plastics, metals and glass.

Last year, 436,464 tons of trash was picked up from county residences.

Gene L. Neff, the county public works director, said the county had focused on mixed paper and lawn waste because those materials are the bulkiest part of the trash. The plan would extend curbside pickup of mixed containers depending on the market conditions for recycled items. That market has decreased during the recession, but the county's Economic Development Commission would look for markets for recycled products.

"What we need here is some kind of balance between recycling and waste disposal," said Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, D-3rd.

During early discussions of the plan, Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, strongly pushed for an amendment that would prohibit the county from building any kind of incinerator.

"All the studies I've read show that facilities that burn waste give off toxins into the air," he said. "It just makes sense from a health standpoint not to have any kind of waste-burning plant in the county."

His amendment appears doomed, however.

Facing the possibility that Baltimore might close the Pulaski incinerator, the county will seek plans for its own incinerator, waste-to-energy plant or resource-recovery plant within a year.

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