County examines ways to reduce trash

Advisory council urges alternatives to landfills

October 14, 2007|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

Carroll County officials are considering ways of recovering more recyclable materials rather than landfilling the waste or hauling it away.

In the next three months, waste consultant Richard V. Anthony of San Diego, Calif., will prepare a report advising Carroll how to throw away less trash, based on last week's meetings with local agricultural, environmental and business leaders, trash haulers and county and municipal employees.

These sessions on how to generate less waste come as the Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council has urged the commissioners to increase local recycling efforts rather than first building an expensive waste-to-energy trash-burning facility with Frederick County.

The environmental council passed other measures last week asking the commissioners to consider a countywide composting facility for organic materials and a Pay-as-You-Throw program, where trash hauling rates would be based on the weight of waste collected.

A Pay-as-You-Throw and mandatory recycling program is already in place in nearby Hanover, Pa., environmental council member Sher Horosko said.

"What's good for the environment and good for our checkbooks is finally coming together," Horosko said. "We would pay for what we use. If you're for conservative values, you should like these principles."

One of Anthony's main recommendations was that Carroll County start separating dry waste from wet trash, known as putrescible substances, so those organic materials can be composted for farm and landscaping uses. He said that about 17 percent of what Carroll County puts in the landfill is food and plant debris that could be composted. Wet organic waste could be collected in a separate recycling bin at the curb, he added.

Not many farmers spread compost on their fields because it can be expensive and isn't readily available, said Gabe Zepp, Carroll's agriculture development specialist. But if a countywide composting facility made free, organic fertilizer available that met soil nutrient requirements, farmers might warm up to the product, he said.

"It could potentially be a cost savings for them," Zepp said.

Removing organic trash from the landfill would also reduce the amount of methane gas and liquid leaching out as the waste decomposes, Anthony said.

All used appliances, mattresses and furniture should be resold, reupholstered or repaired for future uses, Anthony said. He advocates a "zero waste" approach, where virtually all trash materials are recovered for some purpose. All materials could be reused, with the exception of items such as potato chip bags, which he said have no real utility.

The county environmental council echoed Anthony's recommendations, with its goal that the county recycle, compost or otherwise recover 85 to 90 percent of its waste in seven years.

Currently, the state requires a recycling rate of only 20 percent, but Carroll recycled 32 percent of its trash in 2004, according to its 10-year solid waste management plan.

Anthony discussed building a "resource recovery park" on a 40-acre site, possibly that of a former landfill, that would serve as a one-stop recycling, composting and reused materials center, with a metal scrap yard and place to repair old appliances.

County planners, he said, should update industrial zoning code to allow for such facilities, which Anthony estimated might cost $10 million to establish.

With the county landfill tipping rates rising, now to $61 per ton, residents and trash haulers should have more incentive to recycle because such items can be dropped off for free, environmental officials said.

"The incentive is reducing the amount of waste going into the waste bin," county solid waste director Vinnie Legge said.

But municipal officials and haulers who met with Anthony worried that residents balk at making recycling mandatory. Emphasizing the cost savings of increased recycling over building new landfills and trash incinerators could convince more residents to sign on, Sykesville Town Manager Matthew H. Candland said.

"I've always liked this concept because it's cheaper," he said.

With tipping fees soaring, Bob Clark, a Frederick County trash hauler, said he favors building a joint waste-to-energy incinerator with Carroll County. The Carroll commissioners have yet to make a decision on such a facility, but Frederick County will have a meeting on the issue and other solid waste concerns Oct. 22.

During Anthony's visit, Carroll's chief of administrative services Cindy Parr stressed that the commissioners had yet to rule on the future of landfills, recycling or trash incineration in the county.

"This is by no means set in stone," Parr said. "They're just trying to look at a variety of ways to deal with our solid waste."

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