Baltimore County Now
Deborah Meehan, CPPB
Division Chief, Baltimore County Purchasing Services
Office of Budget & Finance
As a professional buyer, it’s always important to get the most “bang for your buck,” the best value and quality at the lowest price possible. Here in Baltimore County’s Purchasing Division, we are proud of our commitment to not only save money, but to get the best “deal” for our environment as well.
Years ago, realizing the impact that a large local government can have on local recycling markets, we updated the County Code to specify the purchase of recycled and recyclable products. This includes the purchase of recycled paper that contains post-consumer fiber as well as the use of double-sided copies.
We make a point to purchase Energy Star computer equipment and appliances. We have gone green with our janitorial cleaning products – using citrus-based cleaners to reduce toxicity while saving money without sacrificing results.
As you might imagine, we recycle tons of paper and bottles and cans from County offices and facilities. But it doesn’t end there. We also recycle outdated computer and electronic equipment by the truckload, keeping it out of landfills and earning a rebate per pound. And, we make a point to ensure that these e-cyclables are not shipped offshore to facilities with questionable environmental standards.
Our printer cartridge recycling effort is a particular success story. We are enjoying significant savings on this basic office expense without any reduction in quality.
We have recently begun to accept some bids or proposals electronically, and expect to eventually open that procedure up to all bids and proposals, saving reams and boxes of paper per bid. When you consider that we have more than 1,100 contracts and receive an average of 175 bids per year, that’s a lot of paper and a lot of trees! Plus, electronic submission simplifies and speeds up our processing.
We are committed to being part of the solution, and our environmentally preferable purchasing policies are making a difference for the bottom line and are helping to ensure a healthy environment for all of our children and grandchildren.
Justin Tucker, Baltimore County Office of Communications Intern, contributed to this blog.
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.
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!