Seminar discusses fee based on amount of home's trash disposal Meeting on waste hears ideas, sets stage for public forums

October 18, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff writer

County residents might give more thought to the difficulty of disposing of their trash if they paid separately to get rid of each bag, a group of county residents and leaders concluded yesterday.

The people who assembled yesterday at Howard Community College for an all-day trash seminar did more asking than answering, however, to set the stage for public forums on the county's solid waste problem.

The forum dealt with issues few people want to talk about -- until the problems threaten to land in their backyard.

The county government sent more than 1,000 invitations and a notice about the meeting, which had a $10 registration fee, but only about 70 people showed up.

Those who did, including County Executive Charles I. Ecker and three County Council members, talked about landfills, trash incinerators and waste transfer stations along with a host of more acceptable but sometimes more complicated solutions such as recycling and composting trash.

"Everybody wants you to pick up their trash, but nobody wants you to put it down," said Mr. Ecker.

The idea of a fee based on the amount of trash a home generates was one of many from three groups that discussed where to put trash and how to pay for disposal.

Most at the meeting seemed to agree that the trend toward "integrated solid waste management" was the way to go. That could involve different measures of recycling, composting, incineration, landfilling and encouraging people and companies to generate less waste.

The county now disposes of most of its waste in the Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville, but that landfill is expected to fill by the year 2008.

The meeting was organized by the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, formed by Mr. Ecker last November, to come up with a state-mandated solid waste plan before the end of this year. Members have visited more than a dozen solid waste facilities, including composting operations, trash-burning power plants and landfills in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Minnesota. The committee also has met weekly since April to learn more about solid waste disposal.

"We want to get citizen input before we say, 'Do this,' " said Miriam Mahowald, committee chairwoman.

After compiling ideas and comments from participants at yesterday's meeting, members hope to hear from other county residents at three public forums. They are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at Hammond High School on Guilford Road just west of Broken Land Parkway in Kings Contrivance village; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Board of Education Building at Cedar Lane and Route 108; and at 10 a.m. Nov. 14 in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building on Court House Drive in Ellicott City.

One of the issues that the committee will seek comments on will be whether the county should take care of its own trash with an incinerator, composting operation or a new or expanded landfill.

The committee also is considering contracting with a private waste-disposal firm. One major waste hauler, Browning-Ferris Industries, has already offered the county a long-term waste-removal contract.

Mr. Ecker, who said he prefers that the county "take care of its own," reported that members of his discussion group felt the idea of privatization should be looked at, but the county should dictate how much waste gets recycled, burned or buried out-of-county.

Ray Sebor, an environmentalist who lives in Columbia, said the ++ meeting did not focus enough on the long-term costs of such things as cleaning up landfills that leak toxins into ground water.

"In the long run, it's cheaper not to pollute in the first place," said Bonnie Johnson, chairwoman of the county's Sierra Club's local group.

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