Local recycling increasing

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
12/22/2008
Frederick County's recycling and diversion rate was just over 44 percent in 2007, according to preliminary calculations by the Maryland Department of the Environment. Over the last decade, the rates show that the percentage of Frederick County waste recycled has generally increased. For instance, the recycling rate was about 34 percent in 1997, compared to 44.3 percent in 2007. The rate is calculated by the Maryland Department of Environment using data provided by Frederick County and following the regulations of the Maryland Recycling Act. As the Frederick County Commissioners are poised to make a decision on whether to build a trash incinerator, recycling rates have attracted new attention.

Right vs. rush

Frederick News Post
12/11/2008
The issue that's brought "No Incinerator" signs to the front yards of numerous Frederick residences has also brought national attention to states like ours that are grappling with the pros and cons of building waste-to-energy plants. Investigating the topic in its Dec. 6-7 issue, The Wall Street Journal looked at controversies surrounding combustion-based waste treatment options by observing that "opposition has cropped up against proposals in California, Maryland and elsewhere." It seems we are not alone. Not so, for Kai Hagen. He's the only Frederick County commissioner opposed to the idea of building a WTE incinerator in Frederick, recently developing a PowerPoint presentation to elucidate his stance and outline alternatives. A Nov. 19 News-Post story said an audience of "about 100 people" gathered for the show, coming as it did on the cusp of the review of the two final incinerator-build bids which, at that time, commissioners expected to have before the board by the end of the year. Estimated expenditure: $350 million. Hagen articulated multiple criticisms of the "uncertain assumptions" being made by the pro-incinerator-leaning board. One involves population growth and per-household trash production predictions. The other hinges on questions surrounding future environmental regulations, meaning those likely to be enacted down the road.

Burnt Out

Frederick News Post
Katherine Heerbrandt
12/03/2008
'm not wild about writing yet another column on the waste-to-energy discussion. I stick with it not only out of a sense of moral obligation and civic duty, but in the sincere hope that someday Frederick County will get the answers it needs to make the right choice. Then everyone on both sides of the debate will form a circle, join hands and sing "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" just like in that old hippy-dippy Coke commercial. OK, that's never going to happen. But come on, we're talking three years that this issue's been in the news. It's certain that county staff's been working at it much longer. And yet we still don't know with certainty how much it's going to cost to build and operate, where it will be located, or whether Frederick County will produce enough trash to feed the gaping mouth of the mass-burn beast we've come to know as WTE. Will it be a 1,500-ton incinerator or a 900-ton incinerator? With or without hauling Carroll County's garbage into the county, coming up with 1,500 tons of trash a day is no small feat. So will the county one day be forced to advertise outside its borders with slogans like, Your Trash is Our Treasure; You Bring it, We Burn it; or Got Trash? And I still can't get a logical answer to this burning question: How are aggressive recycling efforts compatible with the WTE's exceptionally large appetite for traditional recyclables like plastics and paper?

Commissioner minimizes Thanksgiving waste

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
11/27/2008
When Frederick County Commissioner Kai Hagen takes his trash out after the Thanksgiving meal, he hopes his can will be nearly empty. Hagen, an active recycling advocate for nearly 20 years, has recently pushed for waste reduction to eliminate the need for a trash incinerator in Frederick County. It's something Hagen is willing to practice in his own life. Today, eliminating trash for the Thanksgiving meal will start before the groceries come home. His family shops with reusable bags. Hagen predicts the trash will only include a few turkey bones and some non-recycleable packaging. The family has its own composting pile, which is used on the garden. Nonmeat food scraps such as peels of vegetables or heads of carrots will be composted. "There are a lot of things you can do in your life just because they are good things to do," Hagen said. In his family, they don't use disposable dishes, and will recycle cans and bottles. Hagen is a big fan of Thanksgiving leftovers and they plan to put the turkey carcass in a pot of boiling water to start a soup. Hagen isn't doing anything special for Thanksgiving -- he recycles and composts year-round. "At some point, these things become a mindset," he said. "And if more people made decisions, or spent money, or other things, with those things in mind, we'd change the world a whole lot faster."

My presentation went beyond recycling

Gazette
Kai Hagen
11/27/2008
I made a presentation on Nov. 18 to my colleagues on the Frederick Board of County Commissioners and the public about our solid waste challenges, and our consideration of a controversial 1,500-ton-per-day, regional waste-to-energy incinerator (WTE). But if you read The Gazette's article on my presentation last week, you might have the impression that the message was as simple as: Recycle and compost more and sooner than current plans and we won't need an incinerator. While there's truth in that basic idea, the emphasis was on comparing the long-term economic impact and uncertainties associated with WTE with a viable alternative option, and evaluating the proper and optimal process we should employ before making a decision to invest hundreds of millions of dollars, and lock the county into a particular approach for decades. The presentation also included a brief overview and criticism of the process to date; some perspective about the misperception that we don't have time to engage a more thorough and complete process; an examination of some of the other real and substantial risks that come with WTE; and a consideration of the significant value and benefits of a more flexible and adaptable system.

Hagen attacks incinerator idea

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
11/19/2008
The only Frederick County commissioner opposed to a trash incinerator asked other board members at a meeting Tuesday to step back and re-evaluate their research. About 100 people attended to watch Commissioner Kai Hagen's PowerPoint on an incinerator and what he sees as the alternatives. His presentation comes as the commissioners are poised to review two final bids for the incinerator. It is also known as waste-to-energy because it will produce electricity. The incinerator is estimated to cost $325 million, though that number will be more exact after the bids are revealed. County staff members are evaluating those bids, and commissioners expect to have them before the board by the end of the year. Hagen criticized the board for basing the preference to build an incinerator on uncertain assumptions, such as population growth, how much trash each household will produce, or what environmental regulations could be put in place in the future. He also said they have underestimated the value of flexibility in dealing with waste, and overestimated the benefit of the certainty that an incinerator would bring to waste disposal. "It is more important to make the right decision than a rush decision," he said. He asked for a professional study of the economic risk waste-to-energy poses should those assumptions be different and asked for alternatives to be reviewed. His preferred alternative would include a combination of recycling, composting and diversion, along with using landfill space that would have to be used for ash with an incinerator, and hauling the rest of the trash to out-of-state landfills. He said with a 70 percent recycling rate by 2020, and 80 percent by 2030, the county would spend less long-term than with an incinerator.

County unveils new blueprint for recycling

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
11/8/2008
Frederick County is distributing thousands of new 65-gallon recycling containers over the next two months in preparation for the launch of single-stream recycling. Under the new recycling program, residents will be able to put all of their recyclables in one container, instead of sorting those materials. They also will be able to recycle more materials, including aluminum foil, yogurt containers and nonmetallic wrapping paper. Middletown will be the first area to get the new containers, with about 1,200 expected to be delivered Monday. Even though the 65-gallon containers will be distributed in December and January, the county is asking residents to continue using their 18-gallon bins until the new program starts. That program is expected to begin at the beginning of 2009. A pilot program in Mount Airy resulted in recycling participation as high as 80 percent, according to county officials.

Official doubts incinerator estimates

Carroll County Times
Carrie Ann Knauer
11/19/2008
While Carroll and Frederick county leaders are waiting on best and final proposals for an incinerator to be shared by the two counties, one Frederick commissioner is urging his board to reconsider the assumptions the proposal is built on. Frederick County Commissioner Kai Hagen gave a presentation to the Frederick board Tuesday on his reservations with the proposed bicounty waste-to-energy incinerator and the need to investigate other solid waste management alternatives. “The goal is to provide enough information to suggest that there is more that we need to know and more that we need to take a look at,” Hagen told three of the four other board members and an audience of more than 50 people. Hagen said the assumptions used to develop the building cost estimates and operational cost estimates have used outdated data that is very favorable to building an incinerator. “In general, Frederick County has, to date, been overly assured of the relative economic certainties of the waste-to-energy option, which have been far from that certain,” Hagen said. The 2005 report by consultant firm R.W. Beck used an estimated construction cost of $323 million for a 1,500 ton-per-day incinerator to be shared by Carroll and Frederick counties, Hagen said. The Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority has used $350 million as its projected cost in presentations to Carroll County, and a specific price is being drafted by the two companies that are bidding on the project.

County may license trash haulers

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
10/29/2008
The Frederick County Commissioners may replace a controversial trash franchising plan with a new proposal to license trash haulers. As the commissioners culled their list of 2009 state legislative priorities Tuesday morning, they opted not to vote about moving forward on franchising. They will discuss licensing as an alternative at a meeting scheduled for Nov. 6. County officials had touted the franchising bill as a tool to increase recycling because it would allow them to make curbside pickup mandatory in trash collection contracts. Only 54,000 households now get curbside recycling. That service is provided by the county. The franchising bill failed last April in the Maryland General Assembly, when trash haulers objected and Frederick County Sen. Alex Mooney, a Republican, refused to support it. The bill would have given the county the authority to arrange area trash hauling contracts instead of letting residents individually choose haulers. Licensing haulers could have the same effect, by requiring curbside pickup as a condition of getting a license from the county. Commissioner Kai Hagen announced Tuesday that he will oppose franchising, sparking interest in the licensing alternative. He decided to oppose the franchising legislation, he said, because he believes the county could increase its recycling programs with the powers it has now.

Frederick commissioners consider solid waste options

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
09/27/2008
Years before she became president of the Frederick County Commissioners, Jan Gardner remembers telling her children they couldn't buy certain items in the grocery store because they would remain in the landfill indefinitely. "I know more about trash than I ever thought I would," she said at a public meeting Thursday about the county's solid waste disposal woes. The county is considering building a $325 million incinerator, also called a waste to energy plant. At the same time, Gardner suggested the county look into building a new landfill that would include components of a resource recovery park, or RRP. All this is being considered for the 600 to 800 tons of residential trash the county collects nearly every day. "When we go to a public hearing with proposals for WTE, I think we should also go to public hearing with proposals for a landfill," Gardner said.

“Waste-to-Energy” = a risky waste of energy, resources and money (part 3)

Frederick Politics
Kai Hagen
09/24/2008
There is more to evaluate and compare, of course. But, for now, I'll end with a very heartfelt word of encouragement that the county commissioners genuinely consider the subjective, but real, value of alternatives that preserve our flexibility. We risk more than some seem to appreciate by selecting a path that heads backwards, and fails to account for the rapid changes - even major paradigm shifts - we are seeing in the world around us today. We can be the last community - or one of the last - in the entire country to choose Waste-to-Energy incineration, permanently converting limited resources to ash (because our plan does not include only incinerating what can not be recycled or composted). Or we can show real leadership, and become one of a growing number of communities that will serve as working models of a better, more flexible and adaptable, more environmentally-friendly, and less economically-risky path.

Myersville considers mandatory recycling to save money

Gazette
Connor Adams Sheets
09/18/2008
Following in the footsteps of Thurmont and New Market, Myersville's mayor and town council are considering a mandatory recycling ordinance aimed at reducing trash output by residents. Such an ordinance would benefit the county, as well as the town, according to Myersville town manager Kristin Aleshire. "I think it would provide two distinct benefits," he explained. "One is keeping recyclable material out of the county landfill, and two is reducing the amount and cost of trash hauling on the town contract. If those two directives could be achieved, I think it will lead to other benefits down the road as well."

“Waste-to-Energy” = a risky waste of energy, resources and money (part 2)

Frederick Politics
Kai Hagen
08/27/2008
I'm convinced there are viable alternatives that are far more economically-responsible, more environmentally-friendly, and, generally, much more in tune with the way the world is moving. As contentious and frustrating and stressful as this process has been, I have to believe that we will not make this decision and commitment without a fair and thorough examination of the basic concept that so many (and more all the time) have been asking for. One of the most critical differences between WTE incineration and potential alternatives is that the alternatives would be inherently more flexible and adaptable and dynamic in our changing world, and much less risky as a result. The county commissioners owe it to the people of Frederick County to be more diligent and certain before giving up that flexibility, and locking the next six or seven boards, and the residents and taxpayers, into a very expensive, unpopular, outdated, and irretrievably inflexible "solution."

“Waste-to-Energy” = a risky waste of energy, resources and money

Frederick Politics
Kai Hagen
08/06/2008
It's hard to know where to start a short series of columns about an issue as mutli-faceted and complex as the current controversy about the proposal to construct a regional "Waste-to-Energy" (incinerator) facility in Frederick County. A steadily growing number of people in the county have been discussing and debating the issue for a while. Over the past few years, the county has taken many steps in the process, including a number of concrete steps toward a decision to build a Waste-to-Energy (WTE)/incinerator. But an abundance of anecdotal evidence makes it clear that many people, and perhaps most by a good margin, have only recently started paying attention and learning about the issue. Certainly, the vast majority of local news coverage of the issue has been in the last year, with most of that in the last few months.

Trash options already available to residents

Gazette
07/31/2008
For the last several weeks, commissioners and other Frederick County officials have talked about options for solving the county’s waste disposal problems. Options batted around recently include an incinerator (or waste-to-energy facility) and a ‘‘zero waste park,” which includes expanded recycling options as well as commercial composting. In these discussions, several county officials have said the county already has top-notch recycling in place, with plans for expansion. But our question is, if a county has outstanding recycling programs, but few residents are aware of them, does it matter?

County shares details from Boulder trip

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
07/18/2012
Frederick County Commissioners David Gray and Kai Hagen recounted their information-gathering trip to Boulder, Colo., last month in a PowerPoint presentation before the other three commissioners and the public Thursday. The commissioners were in Colorado to learn about Boulder's aggressive recycling programs. Recycling is a way of life in Boulder, where recycling containers outnumber trash containers in most public places and where the residential recycling rate approaches 50 percent. The commissioners hope to achieve a recycling goal of 60 percent within the next 15 years, but recognize the current system needs to change in order to do so. In 2006, the last year for which data is available, the county's recycling rate was 36 percent with a waste diversion rate of 39 percent.

Resident wants fair to recycle

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
07/17/2008
The Great Frederick Fair attracts a lot of attention -- and generates a lot of trash. One county woman hopes to focus that attention on where the trash goes by encouraging more recycling at the fair. Myersville resident Mary Posey wrote an e-mail to the fair organizers this week asking them to implement more recycling. And she'd like to see more recycling at all fairs and events throughout the county. She believes fairs can educate people about the county's shrinking landfill space. The county is considering building a trash incinerator, an idea that Posey opposes. She would prefer more waste diversion and recycling. "I am very, very concerned a lot of people are not informed about the county's waste crisis," Posey said. Posey has lived in Frederick County since 1965 and has been going to the fair every year since 1966. In an e-mail, she suggested newspaper photographers should take pictures of mounds of trash generated at the fair every day.

Boulder dash: A rush to judgment?

Frederick News Post
Don Kornreich
06/29/2008
Some resident-advocates have been strongly urging the Frederick Board of County Commissioners to take a closer look at recycling. Their objective (as I understand it) is to convince the BoCC to adopt an expanded recycling program instead of the proposed incineration facility, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Looking at alternatives to the expenditure of such a large sum, as well as considering the benefits of recycling verses incineration are laudatory goals. So, what is my concern? It is not with the BoCC undertaking a full review to gain all the information it can before making a decision in a matter of such vital importance to Frederick County. Rather, it is with the process by which the "review" has been proceeding; and, more importantly, how it will proceed in the future. One anti-incineration advocate who is very familiar with Boulder, Colo.'s recycling program, and Eco-Cycle a company involved in that program, has been in contact with the BoCC, especially with Commissioner Kai Hagen. These interactions resulted in the advocate arranging a trip to Boulder for several Frederick and Frederick County officials to meet with people involved in Boulder's program. Commissioner Hagen was so impressed with what he heard and saw that he has proposed having an Eco-Cycle executive come to Frederick to make a follow-up presentation.

Residents strive to change attitudes

Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
06/26/2008
Karin Tome of Brunswick practices what she preaches when it comes to creating as little waste as possible. In the Tome kitchen, separate bins are used for empty soda cans, paper and cardboard. Coffee grounds are kept in a white jar to be dumped in a black composting machine outside. Inside, tiny red wiggler worms feast on raw fruit and vegetable scraps in a plastic tub. The worms turn the food waste into a rich, dark soil that will be used for flower bedding. Tome, her husband, and their two sons use only one can for trash that cannot be recycled or composted.

Hagen prepares incinerator battle plan, Inspired by trip to Colorado

Frederick County commissioner hopes to convince colleagues that increased recycling is better option
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
06/19/2008
Frederick County Commissioner Kai J. Hagen’s trip to Boulder, Colo., last week only served to add more fuel to his fight against a proposed incinerator here. "I will keep fighting on this issue,” Hagen (D) said. "I absolutely believe it is a very, very important decision and the county is headed in the wrong direction.” Hagen said that he plans to put together a power point presentation about the trip to try to convince his board colleagues to abandon a plan to build an incinerator. Hagen has also created graphics for "No Incineration” stickers, which he e-mailed to incineration opponents Monday. The stickers can be put in car windows and house windows. Throughout the Boulder trip, Hagen posted pictures and information on his online forum and he now plans to invite Eric Lombardi, executive director of Boulder’s Eco-Cycle, a nonprofit that runs the county’s recycling center, to Frederick, to speak with commissioners.