Baltimore County Now
Bureau of Solid Waste Management
As the holidays arrive, our belts tighten around our post-Thanksgiving waists and our wallets thin from the joy of giving to our loved ones. Amid the hustle and bustle of department store discounts and clearance racks, it’s easy to overlook all the perfectly good items piling up at home.
Many of us have unused low-definition TV’s, working cell phones untouched since the latest update, and outdated toys and games collecting dust in the basement. One can imagine Clement Clark Moore actually intended the timeless poem “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” to read “when out on the lawn there arose such a clutter.”
In addition to fueling the holiday spirit by helping others, donating, or choosing to reuse, unused goods has many advantages. As opposed to discarding items as trash, donating reduces disposal costs, cuts down on air and water pollution, and conserves space in Baltimore County’s landfill (which is already over 50 percent filled). Donating certain items may even qualify as a valuable tax deduction.
Here are some ways you can donate this holiday season.
Large household appliances, like electric stoves, refrigerators, and furniture, are accepted by the American Rescue Workers, which resells the items. The proceeds fund a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, a soup kitchen, and an overnight shelter for people in need.
Pet supplies, from crates to animal water bottles to blankets and towels, are acceptable items to donate to the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) to be used for the animals at the shelter.
Books in good condition, as well as CDs and DVDs, can be donated to the Towson Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library. These are sold at the annual Friends of the Towson Library Book Sale, which raises funds to support the Towson Library.
Cell phones complete with chargers and batteries can be donated to the Family Crisis Center of Baltimore County to be given to people experiencing domestic violence.
Gently-used eyeglasses and sunglasses donated to Lenscrafters find new homes internationally with those who need glasses but cannot afford them.
Building supplies, like faucets, sinks, toilets, doors, windows, and tools, just to name a few, can easily be donated to The Loading Dock, Inc. Just bring them to either of two County residents’ drop-off facilities (the Central Acceptance Facility in Cockeysville or the Eastern Sanitary Landfill Solid Waste Management Facility in White Marsh).
For a more in-depth list of acceptable items to donate, and where to take them, see the County’s Reuse Directory.
Remember – not everybody can give as much as you this holiday season. By donating unneeded goods, you can help fill more homes with cheer. And don’t forget – after you open your holiday gifts, make room in your closets, on your shelves, and in your cabinets by donating all your usable, but no longer wanted, items.
Public Information Specialist
Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management
For the next few weeks we’re right in the thick of it when it comes to leaf collection. Each year from the beginning of April to the middle of December, Baltimore County provides a special yard materials recycling collection, once every two weeks, to 70 percent (165,000) of the County’s individual and townhomes. Materials such as grass, leaves, and small brush are collected and taken to the Eastern Sanitary Landfill Solid Waste Management Facility (ESL) in White Marsh for composting. The goal of this program is to reduce the amount of organic matter that is being landfilled. In 2013 approximately 11,000 tons of yard materials from the County’s Yard Materials Recycling Collection Program were processed into compost.
County residents may also take yard materials and brush and branches to two of the County’s drop-off facilities for recycling. More than 17,200 tons of these items were taken to ESL and approximately 4,100 tons were taken to the Central Acceptance Facility (CAF) in 2013.
What happens to the grass, leaves and brush?
The items dropped off at CAF are processed into compost and mulch by Hollins Organic Products, Inc. The yard materials from the County’s Yard Materials Recycling Collection Program and the yard materials and brush and branches taken to ESL by residents are processed into compost and mulch by the County at ESL.
Large tree branches and tree trunks are run through a large piece of equipment called a tub grinder to make mulch. The smaller material (grass, leaves, and small brush) is piled in long rows called windrows. Another large piece of equipment, appropriately named a windrow turner, moves over the rows using rotating blades to break down, mix and aerate the material. This process of “turning” helps to create the proper conditions for efficient composting (“nature’s recycling program”) of the material. Depending on the weather and other factors, the material will generally stay in these rows roughly 90 days. This material is then run through a trommel screen to remove large and unwanted debris. The compost is then piled up, where it continues to “cure” until it is ready for use.
Compost is decomposed organic material (humus) that helps to enrich and condition the soil. Mulch is “shredded” wood that is used around plants, bushes, and trees as ground cover, and helps to protect root systems from the cold.
Free compost and mulch for residents
Baltimore County residents may pick up compost and mulch, free of charge, from ESL (6259 Days Cove Road, White Marsh, MD 21162). Before going to ESL, call the Solid Waste Management customer service number (410-887-2000) to check on the availability of compost and mulch. Residents will need to bring and fill their own containers.
DIY is best bet
Collecting and processing yard materials is a big and expensive task, so residents are encouraged to “lend a hand” and handle their yard materials at home, through methods such as grasscycling, leafcycling and home composting. For more information about these easy to do methods, check out www.baltimorecountymd.gov/publicworks/recycling.
Bureau of Solid Waste Management, Recycling Division Intern
With 2014 just around the corner, it’s time to start brainstorming some New Year’s resolutions! This year, why not make a resolution that will not only benefit you, but also the world around you? We would like to encourage you and your loved ones to make a resolution to recycle more in the upcoming year. Up to 50 percent of the material the average household throws away is recyclable, but the county’s residential recycling rate for 2012 was only 14 percent.
Recycling benefits the environment in a multitude of ways. Recycling used materials allows us to preserve natural resources for the future. It also curtails pollution by reducing the demand to extract, transport, and process raw materials, saving valuable time and energy. Choosing to recycle materials rather than disposing of them relieves pressure on the County’s only active landfill, which is already half full. The more material residents recycle, the longer we will be able to delay the need for the construction of a new County landfill.
If you’re still not convinced, you may be interested to know that with the recent opening of the county’s new single stream Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Cockeysville, recycling has become even better for the county’s bottom line. Now that Baltimore County can sort its own recyclables internally, the county not only avoids a hefty disposal cost for this material, but is now able to earn revenue from the sale of these recyclables. Recycling also prompts the development of “green technology,” stimulating innovation and spurring the creation of more “green” jobs.
Given the ease of the single stream recycling system and the countless benefits of recycling, we hope that you will resolve to recycle more in 2014 and help boost Baltimore County’s residential recycling rate! From the Recycling Division of the Bureau of Solid Waste Management, we hope you have a happy, healthy and sustainable New Year!