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About the Bureau of Solid Waste Management

Our mission is to provide a safe, environmentally sound, integrated solid waste management program to promote waste prevention, increase recycling and resource recovery and decrease the quantity and toxicity of solid waste requiring landfilling in accordance with the Ten Year Solid Waste Management Plan.

Bureau History Overview

Take a glance at some of the Bureau of Solid Waste Management's key dates:

  • May 1949 - Established as "Bureau of Sanitation" to manage twice a week trash collection and disposal, oversee landfills and sweep streets
  • December 1982 - Opened the Eastern Sanitary Landfill Solid Waste Management Facility (ESL)
  • Early 1990s - Partnered with nine local volunteer groups operating weekend recycling drop-off centers around the County
  • February 1993 - Changed name of Bureau to "Solid Waste Management" to reflect broader range of responsibilities
  • October 1993 to June 1995 - Implemented "One and One" program, substituting weekly "curbside" recycling collection for one of two weekly trash collections for all single-family homes
  • February 2010 - Moved to "single stream" recycling collection, enabling residents in all 235,000 single-family homes to mix glass, cans, plastics, and paper together
  • March 2010 to October 2010 - Expanded "single stream" recycling program to include approximately 81,000 apartments and condominiums
  • November 2013 - Opened its new single stream Material Recovery Facility (MRF) and transfer station in Cockeysville, Maryland. This allows the County to sort its recyclables locally and hold on to the full economic benefits of the County's recyclables.

Key Goals and Current Progress

The following list summarizes current progress regarding some of Baltimore County's key goals, in order of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's solid waste management priorities:

Goal: Prevent as much material from being generated as possible.
Current Progress: The County regularly earns the maximum five percent waste prevention credit from the Maryland Department of the Environment for activities such as promoting grasscycling and home composting, and publishing a Reuse Directory.

Goal: Recycle as much of the material generated as possible.
Current Progress: Residents can recycle up to 50 percent or more of what they set out for collection. The overall County residential recycling rate in 2014 was about 16 percent.

Goal: Recover as much energy as possible from material generated but not recycled.
Current Progress: Most material generated but not recycled, starting in 2012, goes to a waste-to-energy facility in Baltimore City. There, trash is burned as fuel to produce electricity and steam.

Goal: Minimize the amount of material landfilled, especially at the only active County landfill.
Current Progress: In 2015, only 12 percent of Baltimore County residential trash ended up in the Eastern Sanitary Landfill.

Goal: Make the best possible use out of what is landfilled in Baltimore County.
Current Progress: In 2006, a system converting landfill gas (methane) to electricity was installed at Eastern Sanitary Landfill.

Day-to-Day Bureau Functions

The Bureau of Solid Waste Management's day-to-day functions consist of:

  • providing trash and recycling collection for more than 332,000 homes (827,000 residents; 640 square miles), as well as many public events
  • handling and resolving resident inquiries and complaints
  • managing three residential trash and recycling drop-off centers, which also serve as transfer stations to other locations for recycling or disposal
  • managing and operating Baltimore County's only active landfill (already half full) and monitoring five closed landfills
  • collecting and analyzing tonnage and cost data
  • educating the public about the full range of Bureau activities

What Happens to Residential Recycling and Trash?

The Bureau of Solid Waste Management supervises 43 private collection companies that are responsible for collecting residential recycling and trash. In most cases, collection trucks bring material to one of our three facilities, including the Western Acceptance Facility, the Central Acceptance Facility or the Eastern Sanitary Landfill. Some material is handled on-site while other material is consolidated and reloaded into tractor trailers to be transported to distant locations for recycling or disposal. Residential trash is taken to Wheelabrator Baltimore waste-to-energy facility or the Eastern Sanitary Landfill, whereas commercial trash is transported to out-of-state landfills.

Recyclables

Materials collected for recycling are delivered to Baltimore County's Central Acceptance Facility's (CAF) materials recovery facility in Cockeysville, Maryland. There, materials are sorted, baled and shipped out for further processing and/or marketing.

Trash

Wheelabrator Baltimore Waste-to-Energy Facility

Wheelabrator Baltimore waste-to-energy facility is located close to M&T Bank Stadium in downtown Baltimore. There, trash is incinerated to generate energy and steam. Through the incineration process, trash volume is reduced by 90 percent. Steam produced through this process is used in the City's heating and cooling system. The steam also turns a turbine that creates electricity, which is then sold to the energy market. Ferrous metals are extracted from the ash to be recycled.

While most of the County's residential trash (over 75 percent) is shipped to the waste-to-energy facility, the remainder is landfilled.

Eastern Sanitary Landfill Solid Waste Management Facility

The Eastern Sanitary Landfill (ESL), located in White Marsh, is Baltimore County's only active landfill. ESL is a multi-purpose facility, including a landfill, residents' drop-off center for recyclables and common household waste materials and two transfer stations. There is also a composting site for residential yard materials at ESL.

A modern landfill is a highly regulated, carefully engineered structure for waste disposal. Unlike old dumps, modern landfills feature protective liners, leachate collection systems, groundwater monitoring, gas collection equipment and environmental reporting requirements.

ESL is more than half-full. The life expectancy of ESL varies depending on the volume of waste received for disposal. Assuming ongoing input of 125,000 tons of trash per year, as in 2015, ESL would be projected to remain open until 2053.

 

Revised June 14, 2016        

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