Carroll Needs New Waste Plan CARROLL COUNTY

January 06, 1993

Before commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy forg ahead in their efforts to create a waste-to-energy incinerator in Carroll County, they should wait until the county finishes updating its current solid-waste management plan. Without a longer-range plan that specifies the most cost-efficient and least environmentally harmful means of disposing of the county's burgeoning solid waste, there is no way to know if this plant is the best solution to the county's garbage problems.

At present, the county's solid waste disposal plan consists of two landfills and a voluntary recycling program that began five months ago. By any measure, this program is inadequate. The landfills are quickly reaching their limits; by 2006, they will have to be closed. The recycling program is in its infancy; its long-range impact on reducing the county's amount of solid waste has yet to be seen.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the waste-to-energy technology, and we are glad that at least two commissioners appreciate its possibilities. The BRESCO plant in Baltimore is ample evidence that the technology works and can reduce the amount of waste that has to be dumped in landfills. But garbage from the city as well as three surrounding counties is needed to keep the BRESCO incinerator running. Of course, Carroll could build a smaller plant, but would it be as cost-efficient?

There are other strategies that might forestall the large investment needed to build such an incinerator. Increasing the amount of recycling -- by making it mandatory -- and converting yard waste and other organic matter into compost are ways to reduce the volume of waste that needs to be disposed. These can be low-tech solutions that don't require vast amounts of capital or create potential environmental problems.

What demands the commissioners' attention is how various waste-disposal technologies -- from recycling to waste-to-energy -- mesh into a comprehensive solid-waste plan for Carroll County. The commissioners should also explore the possibilities of participating in the Baltimore Metropolitan Council's planning for regional solid-waste management program. Once some answers begin to emerge, and waste-to-energy makes sense, then the commissioners can begin looking into a waste-to-energy plant for the county.

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