Commissioner prefers garbage composted instead of burned

April 26, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Garbage composting should be studied as an alternative to burning trash for energy, says Commissioner Julia W. Gouge, resisting an idea being pursued by the other commissioners.

"My concern is that we're not looking hard enough at other alternatives," Mrs. Gouge said. "We keep talking about incineration, and the expense is astronomical. I'm just not sure that is the way we want to go or should be going."

She said garbage composting -- a method used in Europe for years that is just beginning to be applied in the United States -- could do much to help the county reduce its trash. The county composts yard waste, but mass composting would include all kinds of garbage.

Frank Gouin, a horticulture professor and composting expert at the University of Maryland, said garbage composting can reduce a municipality's trash by as much as 80 percent.

In addition, composting provides a rich source of fertilizer for lawns and gardens, reducing the need for chemicals, county officials and Mr. Gouin said.

The United States imports peat moss from Canada for fertilizer, said Mr. Gouin, who contends that it would be better to manufacture fertilizer from garbage composting.

"Why go up in Canada and destroy [peat] bogs when we can manufacture materials with our own waste?" he said. "This is pioneering work.

"We're going to be buried alive in garbage if we don't watch ourselves."

Composting, with its potential for reducing garbage, could be useful in Carroll, where county elected leaders and environmental officials already are concerned about landfilling. The county's Hoods Mill Landfill in South Carroll is projected to be full in about four years and officials estimate that the Northern Landfill near Westminster would be filled in about 14 years.

AAlthough recycling efforts are spreading in the county, officials say the average household generates 1 to 1 1/2 tons of trash.

Mr. Gouin said a facility in Baltimore is successfully composting residential, grocery store and restaurant trash. The trash includes food scraps, plastic, glass, metals and paper.

Recyclable materials are removed from the trash and the remainder is mixed with water and then ground.

The resulting product is placed in a temperature-controlled tunnel for 14 days. Air is forced through the tunnel and the product is kept moist. It is then cured and turned in a storage area and nondegradable material is removed through screening.

"I'm impressed with the product in Baltimore," Mr. Gouin said. "Composting is the best way to reduce trash."

The Carroll commissioners, looking for ways to reduce the county's trash and the use of landfills, have appointed a &L committee to study a waste-to-energy plant -- which burns trash to produce energy.

Mrs. Gouge said that committee will be asked to study garbage composting, as well.

She has expressed concerns about the cost and environmental impact of incineration.

"We have to investigate and find out what we really want to do and what we can do and what is cost effective," Mrs. Gouge said. "Just to say burn it is not the solution in my mind. That's not good common sense."

Rachelle Hurwitz, co-chairwoman of the committee, said she was unfamiliar with the new technology. But she agreed the committee should aggressively examine alternatives to incineration.

"Incinerators are not panaceas," she said. "We should be examining other alternatives to minimize the need for incineration and overwhelming our landfills."

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said he supports looking into garbage composting as an alternative to landfilling and incinerators, but has concerns about the capital costs in building a mass composting facility.

"We are talking about a heavy capital outlay," Mr. Lippy said. "I think it's something we should look at but I'm not sure what the immediate benefits are. It's relatively new technology and I'm all for investigating that. However, 'new' is the key word."

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