The County Council still hasn't decided whether it wants to ship the county's trash out of the area, but Browning-Ferris Industries isn't waiting.
BFI, the nation's second-largest waste hauler, is planning to build a waste-transfer station in Elkridge that could serve as the loading point for an out-of-state trash shipping operation.
"It provides a very valuable alternative for managing waste for the county," said Kenneth Wishnick, a BFI vice president.
County Executive Charles I. Ecker is mulling the idea of the county building its own trash transfer station for about $5 million.
"I'm going to present my capital budget [Tuesday], and I'll determine it by then," he said Friday.
Mr. Ecker said BFI's plans will be considered, in part because of a county policy of privatizing government services to save tax dollars. "Generally, things that we can have private companies do are better than what the government does," Mr. Ecker said.
But it is possible that both facilities could be built, said Public Works Director James M. Irvin.
According to a waste management plan now up for consideration by the County Council, Howard will need to move between 600 and 900 tons of trash per day. The BFI facility may not be able to handle that much county waste along with trash collected by the company in nearby counties, Mr. Irvin said.
The proposed BFI facility, which needs county Zoning Board approval, could process between 1,800 and 2,000 tons of trash a day, said John L. Lininger, BFI Baltimore-area marketing manager.
The Browning-Ferris proposal will get its first public airing at a county Planning Board meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the George Howard county office building in Ellicott City. The county's Department of Planning and Zoning will recommend approval, but the County Council, sitting as the Zoning Board, will make the final decision.
Currently, the site of the proposed station is the headquarters for BFI's Howard and Anne Arundel counties operation. Trash trucks operating out of the facility collect from residential routes under county contracts and from BFI's own commercial routes, then haul the waste to county landfills, rubble fills, an incinerator and an experimental composting plant in Baltimore.
Other trucks pick up recyclable cans, bottles and papers from Howard, Anne Arundel and Harford counties and bring them back to the company's recycling plant in Elkridge, where they are sorted and packaged for sale.
The transfer station would be called a "trancyclry" because an estimated 3 percent to 7 percent of the trash brought there would be sorted for recycling, Mr. Lininger said. The company told county officials in the late 1980s that it was interested in building a waste transfer facility but opted to build its recycling plant after encountering opposition to the proposal.
Ray Miller, president of the Elkridge Community Association, said the group was still considering its position on the new proposal, but some members are already worried about the precedent it could set.
"We don't want to be the waste capital of Howard County," Mr. Miller said. Residents are concerned that new zoning rules adopted last year allow such private waste facilities on land zoned for manufacturing. Most of that land is in Elkridge, Jessup, Savage and North Laurel.
The county, which doesn't need special zoning to build a waste facility, has already purchased land for a composting facility near Lennox Park, at the southern end of Elkridge. County officials plan to find a private operator for the facility, which is likely to serve Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties as well.
"What we really are worried about is, the next thing you know, we're going to have an incinerator," Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Lininger noted that his company has argued all along that incineration would not be as economical for the county as using a transfer station, and then trucking the waste to other areas where it could be buried in landfills, burned, recycled or composted.