Recycling encouraged as safer alternative to incineration

March 17, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County can avoid the possible hazards of an incinerator by concentrating on recycling, composting and reducing waste, environmentalists told the County Council last night.

An incinerator "is an easy solution" to the county's trash disposal problems, Dru Schmidt-Perkins, the Maryland director of Clean Water Action, said during a hearing on the county's 10-year Solid Waste Plan.

"It seems like a safe solution. But it's a nightmare," she said. "It's a nightmare that will last for 30 years."

The council, which is considering a bill to approve the solid-waste plan, must decide whether Anne Arundel will join neighboring counties in building an incinerator or create a new 500-acre landfill on its own.

Environmentalists vigorously oppose an incinerator because of the harmful pollutants that it emits. They say the county should concentrate on increasing its goals of recycling 35 percent of its waste and reducing waste by 20 percent. The county should also look into building a trash-composting facility, they say.

A coalition including the Maryland Waste Coalition, Clean Water Action, Annapolis Alliance for Sustainable Communities and the Maryland Public Interest Research Group is circulating a petition for a moratorium on incineration in the county.

But the state-mandated solid-waste plan, which must be approved by the council, urges consideration of incineration. A citizens advisory committee that studied a draft of the solid-waste plan strongly urged the county to build an incinerator.

The plan states that the county must decide by July 1995 whether to participate in a regional incinerator or begin the search for 500 acres for a new landfill, at an estimated cost of $1 million an acre. The county's only landfill in Millersville is slated to close by 2007.

Anne Pearson, director of the Annapolis Alliance for Sustainable Communities, said that the county plans to reach its recycling goal by 1996, but does not project the 20 percent reduction in trash until 1999. That leaves three years in which recycling could be increased by 10 percent more. After achieving that, there would be little left to burn.

"I think it's unrealistic [to focus on] an incinerator or waste-to-energy plant first rather than to maximize goals for waste reduction, which incineration competes with," Ms. Pearson said.

James J. Riley, of the citizens advisory committee that recommended incineration, defended the idea.

"The doomsdayers would have you believe that if we had a waste-to-energy facility, we would all turn into mutants from the emissions. That is not the case," Mr. Riley said.

"A waste-to-energy facility has proven to be both environmentally and economically sound," he said. "It would be nice if we could recycle all our solid waste. But the markets and technology do not make this feasible."

The council will vote on the solid-waste plan at a future meeting.

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