Recycling: What happens to all those plastics and cans?

Frederick News Post
Margie Hyslop
Ever wonder how the jumble of recyclables tossed in your one-bin-takes-all cart gets sorted so it all can be shipped off to become new products? The answer is inside a building in Howard County which receives much of the recyclable material collected in Frederick County. Winding through the 50,000 square-foot Recycle America plant off U.S. Route 1 in Elkridge is an ingenious array of conveyor belts interspersed with a series of staged mechanical and magnetic filters. The apparatus fills most of the structure and separates most stuff stashed in the carts that Frederick residents have been wheeling to the curb since the county expanded its recycling program to a single stream system in 2009. At the plant — one of several in Maryland owned by Waste Management, the world’s largest collector and marketer of recyclables — workers first weigh each load and record where it came from. Then all the material goes onto a conveyor belt where workers watch for large items and plastic bags and remove those by hand. Tons of paper, cardboard, metals, glass, plastic run down the belt to rows of rotating disks gauged to sort materials by pushing some items over the top and allowing others to fall through and move for further sorting. Large pieces of cardboard are snagged early and sent to storage for baling.

Wasted food

Frederick News Post
Recycling has become a cornerstone of our lives here in Frederick County. The blue bins that line the streets once every two weeks in front of our homes have become a familiar sight. We’ve come a long way from the 1991 pilot program for 4,000 households that launched recycling in the county. But an article in The New York Times recently made us wonder if we couldn’t go a little bit beyond the plastic bottles, aluminum foil, paper and cardboard that make up most of what we throw in our recycling carts. The Times article reported that following a highly successful pilot program, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will roll out a plan to allow all city residents to recycle food scraps. Residents will be issued containers into which they dump their food waste, and the program, while initially voluntary, is expected to become mandatory. According to the Times, food waste and organic materials account for about a third of the city’s trash. If diverted from the three landfills to which waste is trucked at the cost of $80 a ton, the city could save $100 million a year. Initially, the program will handle 100,000 tons of food scraps that will be sent to a hired composting plant. The program is expected to be so successful, the administration will seek proposals to build its own processing plant to transform the waste into biogas, which would be burned to generate electricity, according to the Times. If you’re thinking New York is a long way from Frederick County, you’re correct. But a similar program is in place closer to home in Howard County, which is set to expand a food-waste recycling pilot program initiated more than a year ago.

County forging ahead with incinerator

Public hearing on the project set for today
Frederick News Post
Pete McCarthy
Frederick County is forging ahead with a waste-to-energy incinerator despite some hesitation from its partner in the project. Carroll County, which can opt out of the multimillion-dollar deal once final costs are determined next year, remains on the fence about whether it will stay on board. "We understand they are taking a look at the whole project," Michael Marschner, special projects manager for the county, said during a meeting Tuesday with the editorial board at The Frederick News-Post. "They need to make whatever decision is right for their county." Should Carroll County pass on the opportunity, it would leave Frederick County on the hook. "If you don't have another equity partner, I think the project stalls," Marschner said.

Young says Carroll County must decide whether to remain in incinerator partnership

Frederick commissioners' president also questions moving the trash-burning plant
Sherry Greenfield
Frederick County Commissioners' President Blaine R. Young said today Carroll County must decide if it wants to still be a partner in the planned incinerator. Young (R) asked Michael G. Marschner, the special projects manager with the Division of Utilities and Solid Waste Management, to meet with Carroll County commissioners and see if they are still on board with the incinerator, or what some people call a "waste-to-energy facility" because it burns trash to produce electricity. Young said he wants an answer in 30 days. "We need to find out the status of Carroll County," he said. "Are they in or are they out?"