October 1, 2001

11 Min Read
SWANA Sails into Baltimore

Michael Fickes

When you talk about the solid waste business in Baltimore, you're talking about two separate and entirely different operations.

Do you mean Baltimore city or county? You need to be specific.

Home of the Inner Harbor, Super Bowl Champions the Baltimore Ravens and site of WASTECON 2001, Baltimore city resides at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

Baltimore county, on the other hand, with its sprawling horse farms, agricultural heritage, nature preserves and growing business presence, encircles Baltimore city to the north, east and west. The Chesapeake Bay and Ann Arundel county lie to the south.

Each Baltimore is a distinct political entity. Consequently, each is responsible for its own set of public services, including solid waste removal, recycling and disposal.

City Solid Waste Operations

Baltimore city's government, headed by Mayor Martin O'Malley and a city council, handles the waste requirements of the city's 651,154 residents. City collection costs total approximately $32 million per year; property taxes foot the bill.

Functioning much like other major city solid waste operations, Baltimore's Bureau of Solid Waste of the Department of Public Works ensures that trash is picked up from 233,000 households and small businesses twice a week.

The city collects approximately 750 tons of solid waste and recyclables per day. Approximately 90 percent of this total comes from single-family homes, condominiums and apartments. The remaining 10 percent of the waste is from small businesses.

Private contractors handle the lion's share of commercial refuse, collecting trash once a week, and recyclables — alternating blue-bagged metals and plastic with paper every other week — the second collection day each week.

Handling this residential waste volume requires the services of 546 collection division employees, plus a city fleet of 130 packers and six front loaders traveling 409 routes per week, six days a week between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.

An unusual feature of the city's collection operations involves the Inner Harbor and the streams that flow into the harbor from the north.

“The Inner Harbor attracts many tourists every year, and most of the attractions are right on the water,” says George Winfield, city public works director. “To keep the harbor clean, we've set up a marine unit.”

The marine operations uses two types of refuse collecting boats. Skimmers collect trash and debris from the surface of the water, with long skimmer arms connected to belts. Then crews of smaller romarine boats use nets to dip trash from the water.

The amount of water waste collected by this fleet varies with the season and the severity of the weather during the year. “On average, we probably collect 200 tons of debris from the harbor during the year,” says Joseph Kolodziejski, head of the department of public works bureau of solid waste.

Residential and commercial waste is disposed of at the Quarantine Road Landfill, which is expected to accommodate the city's disposal needs until 2019. Most of the refuse arriving at the landfill is ash from Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems Co. (BRESCO), a waste-to-energy (WTE) operation that burns refuse from the city and surrounding counties.

A convenience center at the landfill accepts residential vehicles, white goods, tires and recyclables.

Additionally, a leachate pond operation drains approximately 84,000 gallons per day from the landfill. Six city-owned tanker trailers haul the liquids to a nearby treatment plant.

Because the Maryland Recycling Act in 1988 mandated the city recycle 20 percent of its solid waste, the city transfer station and a second convenience center located in the northwestern section of the city are key to city solid waste operations.

Curbside recycling collection programs were established in 1989. Today, this operation delivers about 1,300 tons of mixed paper and 350 tons of commingled bottles, cans and plastics to private recycling contractors every month. The city boasts it reached a 30 percent recycling rate in 1998.

The city also provides several collection programs that are popular with residents. For example, leaf removal services are available in the fall. “We collect trash twice a week, and on the second collection day, we'll remove leaves,” Kolodziejski says.

Bulk collection also is available by appointment. To schedule a pickup, residents simply call the department to arrange a pickup time, then a collection truck arrives at the appointed time and place to pickup furniture and appliances.

“We also have five drop-off locations around the city where residents can dispose of anything they want, Monday through Saturday,” Kolodziejski says.

Another popular city program, the Mayor's Community Pitch In Program, encourages resident to keep their neighborhoods clean. “From April through October, residents can call us about a neighborhood clean-up effort,” Kolodziejski adds. “We'll provide rakes, shovels and other tools as well as city-owned roll-offs to dispose of the collected debris.”

Concerned with keeping the city neat and clean, the city's Sanitation Enforcement Program, which has been operating since 1997, recently was assigned to the solid waste department. “We have 25 enforcement officers,” Kolodziejski says. “They patrol the city and issue citations.”

As part of this program, solid waste officials can issue citations to residents and businesses that violate city sanitary codes, such as high grass, weeds in the yard, failing to provide proper trash receptacles and illegal dumping. Officers currently issue about 128 citations per day. Since 1997, the program has assessed $756,420 in fines.

Baltimore County's Solid Waste Operations

Similar to Baltimore city, Baltimore county has more responsibility than the norm. In Maryland, county governments are much stronger than usual because few towns and cities are incorporated and county executives must handle local government executive responsibilities.

“We act just like a municipality of about 750,000 people,” says Stephen G. Lippy, refuse disposal division chief of the county's Bureau of Solid Waste Management, Towson, Md., and co-chair of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) WASTECON 2001 Local Committee.

Essentially, the county's government serves as the local government for its 754,292 citizens, just 100,000 more residents than the city, says C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Baltimore county executive. But the city only encompasses 80 square miles, compared to the county's 640 square miles.

Thus, the county's geographic size dictates a different and more flexible approach to solid waste management.

The county itself does not maintain collection operations. Instead, the county executive assigns small collection companies, usually family owned, to different areas.

“We have 49 entrepreneurs, all small private companies, that collect residential refuse,” says Charles Weiss, the county's bureau chief of solid waste management.

Gerber's Trash Removal, for example, has collected residential, as well as commercial refuse, for more than 50 years in several suburbs in the northern part of Baltimore county.

Forty-eight other similar companies provide collection services for the county's 300,000 households, including single-family homes, condominiums and apartments.

Although collection is contracted out, the county manages collection operations closely. Contractors must provide one refuse pickup and one recyclables pickup per week. About two-thirds of county households also receive bi-weekly yard waste collections between April and December. Additionally, county employees, using a geographic information system (GIS), monitor pickups and numbers of households.

“We periodically drive each of the collection routes to verify the numbers of units, including new construction,” Weiss says.

In addition to collection, the county pays for a number of special programs throughout the year. One of the most popular is the Community Clean-up program, in which the county covers the cost of roll-offs supplied by con-tractors. Refuse collected under this program goes to the county landfill, where the tipping fee is waived.

The county also oversees, but does not physically handle, refuse and recyclables disposal at five facilities:

  • Baltimore County Resource Recovery Facility. This is a county-owned recycling facility whose perations are contracted out to Maryland Environmental Services (MES), a quasi-governmental state agency.

  • Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems Co. (BRESCO). Located in Baltimore city, this WTE facility was financed by a regional authority, but is privately owned and operated. Ash from the facility flows to the Quarantine Landfill in Baltimore city for disposal and for use as an alternate daily cover.

  • Regional Yard Waste Transfer Station. Located to the south in Howard county, this facility is owned by three Maryland counties, including Baltimore county. MES holds the operating contract for the facility, which manages the transfer of yard waste from three counties to a composting site.

  • Western Acceptance Facility. The county owns this facility, which is operated by MES. Transfer operations include waste, recyclables, plus any additional refuse, recyclables and hazardous household wastes dropped-off by residents.

  • Eastern Sanitary Landfill. Baltimore county owns and operates this Subtitle D landfill. The facility includes a transfer station, yard waste processing facility and residential drop-off station for refuse, recyclables and hazardous household wastes. Under an exchange agreement with neighboring Harford county to the north, this facility also accepts asbestos. In exchange, Harford accepts tires from Baltimore county.

  • Baltimore county's three transfer stations offer an important and strategic disposal benefit. “Three transfer stations give us a degree of flexibility that many jurisdictions probably don't have,” says Refuse Disposal Division Chief Lippy. “We tell the 49 collection contractors which transfer facilities to use. Then we make decisions about where the materials go from the transfer station. For example, we have a contract through 2007 to use the King George County Landfill in Virginia. The Western Acceptance Facility transfers residential waste to BRESCO in the city.”

    The county operates a voluntary re-cycling program, which has proved extremely successful. “Recycling is normally the cheapest way to dispose of refuse, rather than paying to ship it to a landfill or a waste-to-energy facility,” Lippy says. “We recently passed the 40 percent recycling rate for both residential and commercial waste — far above the state's requirement of 20 percent. Last year, we collected 40 million pounds of paper, the most of any jurisdiction in the state.”

    Lippy believes the county's far-flung transfer, disposal and recycling network will enable the county landfill to remain in service for another 45 years.

    And by emphasizing flexibility in making transfer and disposal decisions, county officials can manage operations across the large jurisdiction's on a budget of approximately $38 million, provided by a combination of property and local income taxes.

    In the end, Baltimore city and Baltimore county approach solid waste management from two entirely different perspectives. Which is just one more reason for specifying which Baltimore you mean.

    Michael Fickes is Waste Age's business editor.

    Maryland's Recycling Champs

    To the Northeast of Baltimore City and Baltimore County, at the confluence of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, lies Harford county. More rural than it's metropolitan neighbors, Harford county offers a mixture of open spaces and small communities with historical charm.

    As in most Maryland counties, few Harford towns have incorporated. “We have only three incorporated towns,” says Frank Henderson, deputy director of environmental affairs for the county and a co-chair of the WASTECON 2001 Local Committee.

    Henderson manages Harford county's solid waste and recycling operations, which span 440 square miles. Henderson's operations touch about 83 percent of the county's population of 226,565, those who live outside of the three incorporated towns of Bel Air, Aberdeen, and Havre de Grace.

    Even more impressive than the geographical size of Henderson's operations is the county's sky-high 53 percent recycling rate.

    According to Henderson, private industry collects Harford's residential solid waste and recyclables, contracting directly with homeowners and apartment complexes. Three haulers service approximately 70,000 of the county's 81,000 households. These include Harford Sanitation Services, Waste Management, and BFI. Harford Sanitation, the local service provider, holds about two-thirds of the business.

    Together, the three haulers collect about 270,000 tons of solid waste and recyclables per year.

    The haulers deliver their collections to one of two sites. One is a waste-to-energy facility located on federal property adjacent to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. “Generally we burn about 120,000 tons per year at this facility,” Henderson says.

    Haulers also deliver refuse, along with recyclables, to the Harford Waste Disposal Center in Scarboro in the northern reaches of the county. About 40 acres of the 300-acre site have been permitted for landfilling. That space will fill up within six years, and the county has hired a consultant to design an expansion.

    Currently, the landfill accepts about 15,000 tons per year of refuse. The remaining 137,000 tons represents recyclables, which are transferred at the landfill and taken to a processing center in Baltimore county. This facility processes blue-bag material and transfers paper to another contractor in Baltimore county.

    If you do the math, you'll discover that Harford county has achieved a recycling rate of approximately 50 percent. Add to that credits received under a state program for waste diversion, and Harford's official recycling rate totals 53 percent, the highest in the state.

    The waste diversion credits arise from several programs. One recycles waste ash from the waste-to-energy plant. “We use some of that ash for daily cover at the landfill,” Henderson says. “In addition, we transport ash to York, Pennsylvania, to American Ash Recycling, which recycles ash into aggregate products.

    Harford also receives diversion credits for a backyard composting program and educational programs that promote the purchase of products made with recycled materials.
    Michael Fickes Business Editor

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