Done your homework?

Frederick News Post
Erin Kline
09/07/2008
Education does not end with graduation. Get educated about the issues concerning Frederick County's waste problems and use your voice. This in not an issue that we can solve with a Band-Aid and have future generations deal with later. This is an issue that must be done the right way — with the future, not just today, in mind. Sure, it is expensive to truck our trash to Virginia every day. Sure, recycling doesn't pay for itself today. But how much does it cost to build and maintain an incinerator, and how is it going to be paid for? How many trucks of trash would be coming into Frederick County from elsewhere to feed the incinerator? Waste-to-energy makes it sound like a win-win, but how much energy would it create for the residents of Frederick County, and aren't there better, cleaner ways to create that energy? We are poised at a "tipping point" for green businesses and new technologies. Could these growing businesses and technologies be better for Frederick County? If you don't have answers to these questions then I would say you have some homework to do.

“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and locking the next six or seven boards, and the residents and taxpayers, into a very expensive, unpopular, outdated, and irretrievably inflexible "solution."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.

Officials defend incinerator research

Director of Frederick County’s solid waste division says recent challenges to 2005 trash report are ‘disturbing
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
07/03/2008
The man in charge of managing Frederick County’s solid waste is troubled that some residents question his recommendation to build an incinerator.Michael G. Marschner, director of Frederick County’s division of Utilities and Solid Waste Management, is steadfast in his support of a 2005 report from consultant R.W. Beck, which recommends that Frederick County build an incinerator, also known as a ‘‘waste-to-energy” facility because it burns trash to generate electricity, to deal with its mounting trash. "The Beck report will be three years old in October, and I find it a little disturbing when people want to challenge the conclusions,” Marschner said this week. "I guess if they came back today to change it, the only thing to change is the increase in diesel fuel, which has gone up in the last three years. In that respect, the three-year-old report should be updated.” Since 2000, Frederick County has shipped nearly all its trash by truck from the landfill on Reichs Ford Road in Frederick to landfills in Virginia. Marschner himself has come under attack by critics that accuse him and the Frederick Board of County Commissioners of making a rash decision to build an incinerator instead of looking at alternatives. Commissioner Kai J. Hagen (D), the lone board member publicly against an incinerator, said he believes Marschner and his staff are wrong in their recommendation. Hagen advocates that the county study alternatives. "Mike Marschner is a very capable and intelligent man, but he is wrong on this,” Hagen said in a recent interview. "... No way would a private company get this far or go all the way without much more scrutiny.”

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.

A Boulder approach

Frederick News Post
Katherine Heerbrandt
06/20/2008
If they can do it, why can't we? That's the inspiring message that most politicians, citizens and journalists brought home recently from Boulder, Colo., about Frederick County's ability to reduce and recycle trash. The trip was the brainchild of resident Caroline Eader who joined long-time efforts led by resident Sally Sorbello to look for alternatives to a $350 million, 1,500-ton regional incinerator in Frederick County. But Kevin Demoskly, deputy director of solid waste for the county, told The Gazette that there's "a different mindset" in Boulder than in Frederick. His gloomy assessment of residents' willingness to change their lifestyles reflects the thinking of much of the pro-incinerator crowd, including a majority of the county commissioners. But that's selling people short. And, in fact, most of those who traveled west say they were surprised at how little impact there was on their "daily habits." Jim Racheff, a Frederick resident and a rumored contender in the 2010 county commissioner race, said the trip proved that there's "nothing magical about Boulder."

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.

Commissioner Toor talks recycling and ‘zero waste’

Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
06/12/2008
In 2006, Boulder County Commissioners took an unusual step and adopted a resolution encouraging its government and residents to work toward creating ‘‘zero waste.” The resolution by the three-member board meant that the county would devise a plan to reduce trash by 50 percent or better by 2010. The ultimate goal is the elimination of all waste by 2025. The county has already upped its 50 percent goal by 2010 to 75 percent or higher. Commissioner Will Toor (D), elected to the board in 2004, was instrumental in developing the resolution along with programs and policies designed to reduce trash.

Recycling expert advises against incinerator

Gazette
Molly Fellin Spence
06/12/2008
As officials consider building an incinerator - or what people in the industry call "waste-to-energy facilities” because they burn trash to generate electricity - to deal with that crisis, an expert in waste diversion had some warnings. "The marketplace is smarter than all of us. Why hasn't the marketplace built [a landfill] in over 20 years?” said Eric Lombardi, executive director of Eco-Cycle. "Until you answer that question, don't write a big check because you're the guinea pig.” As leader of Eco-Cycle, Lombardi is passionate about waste diversion as a clean and ethical way to deal with trash. Eco-Cycle volunteers brought recycling to Boulder in 1976, making it one of the first 20 communities in the U.S. to offer curbside recycling. It provides business recycling collection and drop-off centers as well as educational programs for regional schools. Eco-Cycle also operates the county-owned Boulder County Recycling Center. Lombardi advised a group of Frederick County and city officials and residents Monday that businesses, communities and government must work together to all decide what's the best way to deal with waste.

Commissioner questions size of proposed incinerator

Gazette
Charles Schelle
04/24/2008
Carroll County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge questions whether a proposed incinerator that Carroll is considering building with Frederick is too big. "We’re building a facility that is much larger than we need right now,” Gouge said. The proposal calls for the incinerator to be built in Frederick County, possibly near the Ballenger Creek-McKinney Wastewater Treatment Plant off Md. Route 85, with Carroll contributing $140 million to the $350 million project. The incinerator would handle 1,500 tons of trash per day, 600 tons of which would come from Carroll. However, Carroll only produces about 320 tons per day.

A healthy dose of skepticism and hope

Gazette
04/10/2008
We are skeptical that America can ever become a society that throws away nothing, or what some environmentalists would call a ‘‘zero-waste” community. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, or at least search for economical ways to throw away less. Officials from Carroll and Frederick counties have been invited to do just that by taking a trip out West. Caroline Eader — who holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology and works as a paralegal for a science-based, nonprofit environmental land trust — splits her time between Frederick County and Boulder, Colo. She has invited Carroll and Frederick leaders to visit Boulder to see how that city handles its trash, and they are responding favorably. They are working to organize a trip for mid-June. Boulder adopted a resolution in May 2006 to work toward becoming a zero-waste city. It uses Eco-Cycle, a nonprofit organization, to manage its recycling program to work toward that goal. Eco-Cycle provides recycling to about 800 businesses, and operates a community recycling center for items that are typically difficult to recycle, such as porcelain sinks, Styrofoam blocks and electronic equipment.

Officials invited for a new look at trash

Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
04/03/2008
A woman who divides her time living in Frederick and Boulder, Colo., has invited officials from Frederick and Carroll counties to see how Boulder’s successful recycling program works. She sees the program as an alternative to the trash incinerator both counties are considering building here. Members of both county boards have spent the last week exchanging e-mails with Caroline Eader. Eader wants Frederick and Carroll officials to meet with representatives of Eco-Cycle Inc., a nonprofit recycling processor that has brought curbside recycling to Boulder residents and businesses since 1976. Eader touts Eco-Cycle’s efforts to create ‘‘zero waste.” The term means that all products and packaging is designed and built to be reused and recycled. Zero waste puts the responsibility of creating recyclable products on the manufacturers. Eco-Cycle is considered a ‘‘resource recovery” processor, because the items it collects are later sold on the open market. "... I would like you to see what a community can accomplish when it has the desire and the facilities in place to achieve a common goal,” Eader wrote in her e-mail invitation to both boards.

Group proposes alternate trash disposal plan

Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
03/13/2008
A trash advisory group in Frederick County will unveil an alternate plan to the county’s proposal to build an incinerator. The plan will be unveiled at a series of presentations beginning Monday. "This alternative plan is designed to capture recyclable material on the front end before it becomes part of the waste stream, substantially reducing the current amount of trash going to our landfill or needing to be exported or incinerated,” said Steve Cassis, of the Solid Waste Analysis Group (SWAG). Friends of Frederick County, a land protection group that has been vocal in its opposition to an incinerator, is sponsoring the presentations. Janice Wiles, executive director of Friends, said since incineration has been on the table for Frederick County, alternative plans have not been considered. The alternative plan includes the building of a ‘‘Material Recovery Facility,” a specialized plant that accepts, separates and prepares recyclable materials to be sold on the open market, composting commercial and household waste and better disposal of construction debris and electronic items. Incineration opponents believe increased recycling will reduce the need to burn trash and reject incineration as harmful to the environment and too costly for county taxpayers. They consider their plan to be cheaper and cleaner.

If incinerator fails, county may opt for a new landfill

Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
12/20/2007
Frederick County Commission President Jan H. Gardner (D) said this week the county would have to site a new landfill if commissioners decide against a trash-burning incinerator. "I do believe if we don’t pursue waste-to-energy, then we do have to move in the direction of siting land for a new landfill,” she said. Gardner acknowledged that siting a new landfill would not be easy — commissioners would need to find 300 to 500 acres of open land, away from homes. Gardner’s assessment comes after a two-night public hearing on an incinerator proposal. Commissioners started listening to testimony from residents and environmental groups on Dec. 11 and finished up Dec. 12.

Residents tout alternatives to burning trash in advance of public hearing

Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
12/06/2007
For weeks, incinerator opponents have been encouraging residents to come out Tuesday to tell Frederick County commissioners to scrap the idea of building one here. "We're out canvassing the area and going door to door," said Janice Wiles, executive director of Friends of Frederick County, a group that promotes a better quality of life. ''We've already got several businesses on board." The group has distributed postcards to businesses in downtown Frederick asking residents to come out to Tuesday night's public hearing and voice support to increase recycling instead of spending money to build an incinerator. "It is critical that Frederick County residents show up in force to urge our elected leaders that we must examine other options for disposing of our trash before we move forward," said Alane Hartley, cofounder of the Waste Study Group and a member of Friends of Frederick County. "Local taxpayers have a right to demand more transparency in a process that could potentially create more debt and pollute the air our children breathe."

Carroll’s environmental council says no to plan

Group prefers to increase recycling, charge residents by weight of their trash
Gazette
Charles Schelle
11/01/2007
As the Carroll Board of County Commissioners considers whether to build a trash incinerator, Environmental Advisory Council members have their own opinion about the plant: No way. "Our recommendation is that we not pursue waste-to-energy [incineration], and not pursue it for a period of at least five years,” said Sher Horosko, a member of the Environmental Advisory Council. Horosko’s comments drew applause from the audience at an Oct. 24 Frederick Board of County Commissioners meeting. "[The incinerator] will not have support of a single member of our Environmental Advisory Council,” she said.

Commissioners forgo bottled water

Frederick News Post
Meg Bernhardt
10/26/2007
A pitcher and paper cups replaced the traditional bottles of water placed in front of the Frederick County Commissioners during evening meetings. As the commissioners sat down to discuss waste disposal issues this week, Commissioner Kai Hagen announced the new policy to the audience, comprised mostly of people who want to protect the environment. The county established the rule this month that its departments will not buy bottled water or styrofoam cups. "One of the big issues right now is the going green concept and in my opinion this is going to go a long way to eliminate waste generation at the county's landfill," said County Manager Ron Hart. The quality of the water is not a problem, Hagen said. "Tastes fine to me," he said with a smile.