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.
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!
Charlie Reighart, Recycling and Waste Prevention Manager
In a county where cost-effectiveness for the taxpayer is king, and a Triple A bond rating is highly prized, the new single stream recycling facility in Cockeysville is another crown jewel. In just the first full four months of operation (November 2013-February 2014), the new facility has generated nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in net operating revenue. At this pace, the new facility will benefit taxpayers to the tune of $1 million by April 2014!
Baltimore County has revenue-producing markets for all of the recyclables sorted at the single stream facility. Many people realize that aluminum is a highly valuable commodity (as high as $1,300 per ton during the facility’s first full four months). However, most people are not aware that the sorted recyclables’ per ton market values have reached as high as the following levels in several other categories during that same period:
- $802 for #2 HDPE plastics;
- $364 for #1 PET plastics;
- $266 for steel cans;
- $140 for cardboard; and
- $86 for mixed paper.
Baltimore County’s new single stream facility is obviously off to a very good start financially. Combined with residents’ growing enthusiasm with the recycling program, as reflected in ever-increasing amounts of recycling (a 49% tonnage increase from 2009 to 2013), future fiscal prospects are bright. Baltimore County residents have enjoyed 21 straight years without an income tax rate hike and 25 straight years without a property tax rate increase. And now that you’ve read this blog, you know that you can help keep Baltimore County’s tax rates low by recycling!
If you’re already recycling, thanks very much for doing the right (and frugal) thing. If you aren’t recycling, the County’s single stream recycling program (weekly collection of the full range of acceptable recyclables, all mixed together) makes it easier than ever to start recycling and stop wasting valuable resources. In either case, please consult your 4-year collection schedule/program guide to make sure you know how to recycle all that you can. If you can’t locate the schedule/guide, just go to www.baltimorecountymd.gov/solidwaste to download one or call 410-887-2000 and you’ll promptly receive one in the mail.
Every County resident can take pride in our new single stream recycling facility. If you’d like a tour, or access to a DVD showing what happens there, simply contact Public Information Specialist Clyde Trombetti at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-887-2791.
If you really want to multiply your positive impact, contact Clyde Trombetti about how you can become a part of the County’s newly forming “Recycling Volunteer Network.” Encourage your neighbors, friends, and relatives to join you as active recyclers, with guidance and support from the County’s expert recycling staff.