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Baltimore County Now

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

photo fo potholeJim Lathe
Chief, Bureau of Highways

From a road-maintenance perspective – and as Chief of the Bureau of Highways that’s my default perspective – March is not the month of endless TV basketball. Nor is it an opportunity for everyone to be an ersatz Irishman. It is (and rightfully should be) Pothole Month. It’s the time of the year when frozen roads begin to thaw and come apart. Axel-breaking cavities materialize out of nowhere. Fissures form. And an already irritable driving public, fed up with snow and cold, faces an obstacle course of holes and black-water chasms every morning behind the wheel. March is the month to fill those holes and bring order to the world.

The figures are not in yet, but Baltimore County road crews have probably filled twenty thousand potholes this month. Pothole professionals (and let’s give them their due) from eleven Baltimore County shops have been working every weekday – each shop filling about one hundred holes.

Their job is often dubbed a throw-and-go operation. They shovel a cold patch mix into the hole, filling it just above surface level (to allow for compaction) and then vanish. At the end of winter (early March) they begin the operation with cold patch and then move on to more durable hot mix as it becomes available with the onset of spring.

Pothole patching is a very big job. It varies from year to year. Almost seventy thousand holes were filled in 2001 and less than forty thousand in 2012, a relatively mild winter. I suspect that this winter will be closer to the top than the bottom. That, at least, is what March portends.


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.


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