Baltimore County Now
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!
Diana DeBoy, Student Intern, Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management;
Towson University Mass Communication Major
Today, some people might find it difficult to understand the benefits and importance of recycling. Honestly, until a few months ago, I had never recycled and didn’t know where to start. Then I began an internship with the Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management and learned the importance of such an easy task. Recycling has a significant impact on preserving Baltimore County’s only active landfill, which is already 51 percent full. When we recycle, we divert materials from the landfill, thus extending its lifespan. Recycling also has other benefits, such as conserving natural resources, reducing pollution, and even saving money! For instance, for every ton of recyclable material diverted from trash, Baltimore County and its taxpayers save $60. In 2012 alone, residents’ recycling avoided nearly $3 million in trash disposal costs.
So, if you’re new to recycling like me, you may be thinking, “I don’t know what I can recycle.” Simple everyday materials such as glass bottles, aluminum foil, narrow-neck plastic bottles and newspaper are all examples of items that are accepted in the Baltimore County Single Stream program. If you pass by something in your house and you aren’t sure if the item is acceptable, just visit www.baltimorecountymd.gov/recycling to see a complete list of acceptable plastics, glass, metals and paper.
There is also something you can do that’s even better than recycling -preventing waste in the first place. For example, buying items with less packaging or things that can be reused will decrease the amount of material that needs to be landfilled.
So, why not give recycling a try and help preserve our landfill? Good luck and happy recycling everyone!