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Keyword: solid waste management

By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Communications Specialist, Department of Public Works

How dangerous is your job? When we think of deadly professions, we tend to think of mining, construction, law enforcement and firefighting. Oddly enough, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those jobs are not among the top ten civilian occupations with the highest fatality rates. In fact, the five civilian occupations with the highest fatality rates in 2017 were fishing, logging, piloting/flight engineering, roofing and refuse and recyclable material collection.

You read that right – the men and women who cart away more than 250 million tons of trash, recycling and organic materials generated by Americans each year have one of the nation’s deadliest occupations. In fact, waste collection has an incidence rate of 35 fatalities per 100,000 full-time workers, ten times the national average! (I’ll keep that statistic in mind the next time the lid to my trash can goes missing.)

What makes solid waste collection such a dangerous profession? Falls, slips, trips, fires, explosions and contact with dangerous, heavy equipment all cause fatalities among collectors. However, across all occupations, transportation incidents were the most common cause of fatal injury, which is not news to waste collectors.

“Most people don’t realize just how dangerous the solid waste management field can be,” said Tim Dunn, Baltimore County’s solid waste superintendent. “It’s important to remember the hardworking people who perform this essential public service when you’re out and about. A little bit of extra care and caution behind the wheel can go a long way.”

In recent years, the National Waste and Recycling Association and the Solid Waste Association of North America made it a priority to pass “slow down to get around” (SDTGA) legislation in states across the country, including Maryland SB 445, which was signed into law last year. These laws require drivers to slow down and change lanes when approaching waste management vehicles from the rear.

In addition to following Maryland’s SDTGA law, you can take some simple steps to reduce the risk of injury for sanitation workers:

  • Wrap broken glass before disposing of it.
  • Place needles, syringes, razor blades and any other sharp objects in a closed, heavy-duty plastic container for disposal.
  • Do not put household hazardous waste in your trash can. Take it to one of the County’s drop-off centers.
  • Do not use a trash can that exceeds a maximum filled weight of 40 pounds or a maximum capacity of 34 gallons. See the County’s collection set-out guide for more information.

By following a few basic rules, being mindful and showing a little common courtesy, you can help reduce injury and fatality rates not only among waste collectors, but workers across industries.

Have questions about trash and recycling collection in Baltimore County? View a list of collection FAQs on the County’s website or send an email to solidwaste@baltimorecountymd.gov. This article originally appeared in The Resource Newsletter. See past issues and subscribe at baltimorecountymd.gov/theresource


Meeting to be Held on May 4 at 7:00 p.m.

In accordance with the Annotated Code of Maryland, Environment Article Section 9-503, the Baltimore County Department of Public Works is developing a new Ten Year Solid Waste Management Plan to cover the 2019–2028 period. As part of the Plan development process, a County Executive-appointed Solid Waste Management Citizens Review Committee (SWMCRC) has been formed to provide input and recommendations to the County regarding the content of the new Plan.

The next meeting of the SWMCRC will be held on Thursday, May 4 at 7:00 p.m. in the Executive Conference Room at 400 Washington Avenue in Towson. Anyone may attend and observe this open meeting, though there will not be an opportunity for public participation. People wishing to attend are asked to contact the Bureau of Solid Waste Management at 410-887-2000 by Tuesday, May 2.

An agenda for the May 4 meeting will be made available online at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled meeting time. This agenda, as well as additional information about the County’s Solid Waste Management Plan, will be located at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/solidwasteplan.


By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Communications Specialist, Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management

Americans are biting off more than we can chew.

Picture it: you bring groceries home from the store and prepare a family favorite for dinner – spaghetti and meatballs with salad and garlic bread. After eating, you all pitch in to clear the table, placing food scraps and maybe even some leftovers down the garbage disposal or in the trash. With everything put away and the counters and table shining clean, dinner is over, and you and your family settle in to watch an episode or two of your favorite show on Netflix. It’s a familiar scene, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Not even close.

So, what is the whole story? The story of our food is a complicated one involving a long, meandering journey from “farm to fork to landfill." In 2017, the Bureau of Solid Waste Management plans to explore this journey in a series of articles about food waste, food waste prevention and food recovery to help readers better understand the impact our daily food choices have on our families, our communities and our planet.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food makes up the largest percentage of waste that is buried in landfills or burned in incinerators, and more than 30 million tons of food are sent to landfills each year. In fact, 30 to 40 percent of the food produced annually in the U.S. is thrown away, which is more than 20 pounds per person, per month.

Think about it – what kinds of foods made up your 20 pounds last month? What foods are you actually eating, and what are you throwing away? How much are you throwing away, and how much did it cost? To reduce the amount of food we waste, we must first understand what we are wasting, why we’re wasting it, and how that waste affects us.

From farms to cafes to our kitchens, food waste happens in a variety of ways, such as:

  • People prepare too much food for meals and throw out the leftovers;
  • Food that was overcooked or badly prepared is thrown away;
  • Diners over order at restaurants, or the portions are too large, and the leftovers are disposed of;
  •  “Ugly” fruits and vegetables are left to rot on farm fields or disposed of at grocery stores;
  • Food goes “bad” before we’ve had a chance to eat it, or is disposed of due to confusing food date labeling.

Why does this matter? Food waste is costly. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, food waste costs Americans $165 billion each year. That works out to approximately $529 per person. Food waste also harms the environment. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports that food waste, if ranked among countries, would place third in total greenhouse gas emissions, after China and the United States. Lastly, food waste is a social problem. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that nearly 13 percent of U.S. households, or 42 million people, were food insecure in 2015.

Given the financial, environmental and social impacts of food waste, we all have a role to play in reducing the amount of food we throw away. Here are 10 tips to help you prevent food waste at home:

  1. Plan your meals in advance and shop smart.
  2. Don’t over-serve at home, serve food on smaller plates, and eat your leftovers!
  3. Store food in the right places (pantry, refrigerator) and containers (freezer bags, airtight containers).
  4. Avoid kitchen clutter and keep food neat and visible; keep foods “first-in, first-out.”
  5. Regularly take inventory and note approaching expiration dates; plan meals using those items.
  6. Treat “sell by,” “best by,” and “use by” dates as guidelines only. The FDA actually permits stores to sell food past the “expiration date.” You can learn more about food expiration dates at the United States Department of Agriculture but, remember: food date labels serve the retailer, not the consumer.
  7. Use soft produce in smoothies, soups and juices.
  8. Keep a food waste diary of the kinds of food you throw away, and why.
  9. As they say, beauty is only skin deep, so go ahead and buy that “ugly” produce.
  10. Use it up – cook with food scraps, such as meat trimmings and produce skins, peels, stems, and stalks.

It’s also important to talk to your family members about what they can do to prevent food waste at home, school and work.

In the next installment of our series about food waste, we will provide an overview of Maryland’s very first Food Recovery Summit, which brought together representatives from nonprofit organizations, local schools, environmental groups, the retail food industry, and local, state and federal governments to share ideas and best practices for reducing food waste in our state.

This article originally appeared in the Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management’s REsource Newsletter. To subscribe, visit our website


 
 
Revised September 11, 2017