Reconsidering Incineration CARROLL COUNTY

August 20, 1993

What a difference a year makes. Last summer, Carroll's commissioners had only a passing interest in composting, which they considered to be an impractical solution for the county's solid waste disposal problems. Instead, they focused exclusively incineration as a long-term solution.

After several months of study and discussion, however, the commissioners are reconsidering the merits of composting and will travel next month to the Bedminster Bioconversion plant near Knoxville, Tenn. The plant processes about 185 tons of garbage and sewage sludge daily -- about three-quarters of Sevier County, Tenn.'s solid waste.

Touring a plant does not mean that the commissioners will adopt composting as the primary means for disposing of Carroll's waste. But the fact they are willing to take two days to travel to see this plant is a good indication they are no longer convinced incineration is their best solution.

As a member of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, Carroll, along with Baltimore City and its four other suburban counties, has agreed to examine a regional solution to solid waste. The council's preliminary plan calls for recycling up to 40 per cent of the region's trash, burning and composting 50 percent and burying the remaining 10 percent in landfills.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell remains an enthusiastic supporter of a waste-to-energy incinerator, but his colleague, Elmer C. Lippy, is beginning to have his doubts. Mr. Lippy is worried about the cost of constructing and operating an incinerator. The third commissioner, Julia Gouge, has always favored alternatives incineration and has been pushing composting as a less costly disposal method.

Composting -- a form of recycling -- will also ensure that Carroll achieves the state-mandated goal of recycling 15 percent of its solid waste by 1994. With Carroll's recycling rate fluctuating between 9 and 21 percent during the past year, the commissioners do not want to impose mandatory recycling in a county that believes in laissez-faire garbage disposal.

It is dawning on the commissioners that a successful program that turns garbage into compost may be a less expensive and more attractive alternative than the original plan of transforming garbage into steam.

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