Fact checking ‘WTE 101, continued’

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Source: Frederick News Post
Author: Karin Tome
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Date Published: 11272011

If Harvey Alter were graded on his Nov. 17 commentary (“WTE 101, continued”), he wouldn’t receive a very high score. It’s not what he said, but what he didn’t say. The Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority will issue bonds to pay for the proposed trash incinerator, but the county is obligated (through a separate contract with NMWDA) to make regular payments to them, such as you would for your mortgage. The county’s System Benefit Charge is not “so-called,” but very real. As a member of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, Alter knows very well that the primary revenue for this business operation is based both on tipping fees and the SBC fee (which is found on residential and commercial property tax bills and can be raised without limit.) If the revenue from tipping and SBC fees, and the electricity sales and ferrous metal recovery don’t cover those expenses, county residents will have to make up the difference through higher SBCs. Alter states that “… anecdotal evidence from around the country is that communities with WTE recycle more” and “Recycling and WTE together conserve and recover more resources than either alone.” That statement is true only where recycling is at a very low level and the tonnage of ash (if used for landfill daily cover) and ferrous metal found in the ash are counted as recycling. However, as recycling increases it will compete with incineration, especially for plastics and paper. We could spend, however, a fraction of the cost of the incinerator on alternative ways to divert waste from the landfill (such as a commercial compost facility or manned recycling centers throughout the county (in addition to Reich’s Ford Road) and we’d be able to recover many more resources and conserve more energy than would be produced by burning them. For example: Manufacturing a ton of newspaper from trees takes 11,699 kilowatt hours; if that ton of paper is recycled, a new ton of paper can be made using only 6,442 kWh, but if it’s burned it only produces 1,875 kWh of electricity.