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Baltimore County Now

Stay informed of what's happening in Baltimore County.
Keyword: environment

photo of baled plasticRashida White
Public Information Specialist, Recycling Division

“What happens to my recyclables after they are collected?”  I get this question from time to time. Many people consider the process of recycling as simply putting materials out for collection and expecting them to “disappear.” However, collection is only the first step in the recycling process.

The second step in the recycling process involves processing the recyclables and turning them into marketable products. How does this happen? Well, once collected, recyclables are taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF – pronounced murf), where recyclables are placed on a series of conveyor belts and sorted multiple ways.  Sorting involves screens, magnets, air currents and also manual picking. After the material is separated by type, it is then baled and prepared for pickup or shipped to manufacturers. 

Recyclables are considered commodities – goods that can be sold at fluctuating prices. So, after leaving the MRF, these materials will be sold to local, regional, national and international businesses to become raw materials for new products. The materials end up in a manufacturing facility, where they are used as a substitute for virgin materials (paper for wood, aluminum cans for bauxite ore, plastics for oil, etc.).

Depending on the type of material and facility, a variety of new products are made. For example, new cans can be made out of recycled aluminum; pulverized glass can be used for a variety of construction projects; steel cans can be made into new steel cans or other steel products such as vehicles, appliances and construction material; and plastics, depending on the grade, can be made into products such as clothing, car parts, pipes, pails, lumber and pallets.

This leads to the third and final step in the recycling process, which is purchasing recycled products. Buying recycled products is a critical step for the overall recycling process because it creates and sustains a market demand for recyclables. The more recycled products consumers buy, the more manufacturers create products made from recycled materials. Without an adequate demand for recycled products, recycling would be ineffective.

So, if you have ever wondered what happens to your recyclables after collection, you may be buying them, wearing them and even driving them!


photo of Adopt-A-Road signKristi Pilarski, Adopt-A-Road Coordinator, Bureau of Highways

Cigarette butts, soda cans and other trash you may see along the road is not just unsightly, but it can get washed down into storm drains during a heavy rain, wash into our waterways and pollute recreational water areas, drinking water supplies, and eventually, the Chesapeake Bay. This is why Adopt-A-Road is one of our solutions for the environment and your community.

You can see our green and white Adopt-A-Road signs all around Baltimore County, showing community support for a Clean, Green Baltimore County. It is easy to join the Adopt-A-Road program. A group makes a commitment to pick up roadside litter just four times per year for at least two years.

We receive support from the community from all types of adopters. Adopters include civic and non-profit organizations, school groups, commercial and private enterprises, families and individuals. We have adopters of all ages, the youngest being 12 years old. I am always looking for new adopters, individuals or groups, to help grow the Adopt-A-Road program.

This program is a great service project for all sorts of groups, and especially helpful for high school students who need community service hours to graduate. It’s a nice way for families to come together to show support for their neighborhood. One of our newest groups, a motorcycle club, even made participation in Adopt-A-Road a prerequisite to joining their club.

Our Adopt-A-Road program started twenty years ago and had much success in the past. I am hoping to continue to make it successful and grow the program, so we can help keep Baltimore County’s roads clean.

I try to keep everything simple for the adopter. Once the application is approved, I give the safety training to the coordinator or to the entire group. At that time, I supply the group with all the supplies needed for the cleanups. We supply the trash bags, pickers, gloves, signs and the safety vests. Each group receives an Adopt-A-Road sign at their adopted road location and we will collect the trash bags after each clean up.

If you would be interested in the Adopt-A-Road program, I would love to hear from you! Contact me directly at kepilarski@baltimorecountymd.gov or 410-887-3560.


photo of damages treeSaul Passe, Arborist, Baltimore County Bureau of Highways

Wow, that was a rough winter.  I hesitate to put that in the past tense for fear that Mother Nature will throw down snow and ice just to spite me.  As an employee of the Baltimore County Highways I am no stranger to the havoc that snow and ice can do to the roads, but as the Arborist for Highways I can tell you that this winter has also taken its toll on the trees. 

Baltimore County has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA community.  Many of our urban streets are lined with mature canopy trees, and even more of our rural roads are up against large forests.  Winter events involving snow, and especially ice, can put these trees under extreme pressures that will exceed their normal capabilities to support themselves.  Even if a branch doesn’t reach the point of breaking off, a quarter of an inch layer of ice on any branch is enough to make it bend significantly.  Some of these branches are hanging of the road and can become a problem for motorists, not to mention the branches that do break off and fall in the road. 

Once there are branches snapped off and laying in the road, or bending into the road what is to be done with them?  If tree debris falls from a County tree (a tree in the public right-of way), County forces are responsible for removing them from either the road or the sidewalk.  The Highways Bureau will only take care of the debris that falls into a public right-of-way; anything that comes down on private property is the responsibility of the homeowner.  Any private trees that may fall into a public right-of-way will be cleared out off of the road or sidewalk, but can’t always be taken away by County forces, and remain the responsibility of the homeowner.  The bottom line is that the care of trees along public roads is a shared responsibility.  Baltimore County provides the service of keeping our roads open and free of tree debris, and the homeowner should take care of debris on private property.

As we enter spring we should keep in mind that when leaves come out they can add a lot of weight to trees.  There may be some branches that have taken a beating over the winter and may be further stressed by a “full head of hair.”  Species such as White Pine and Bradford Pear are softer woods that are susceptible to failure under extreme conditions.  So, this spring, take a few minutes to look up into the canopy and take notice of our County trees.  They are a valuable resource for the County that we can take care of together to ensure a green future for generations to come.


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