Inside a large warehouse at the county landfill on Reichs Ford Road southeast of Frederick, trucks dump loads of garbage and recyclable materials.

After being sorted — some with the assistance of a large crane — the garbage or recyclables are dumped through slots into large trucks, taking the former to a landfill in Pennsylvania, the latter to a materials processing center in Elkridge.

There’s a decent amount of activity daily at this transfer station, contrasted to the simple action of county residents tossing recyclables into their blue bin and putting it curbside every two weeks.

But now, given current costs of recycling, officials will have to determine if the county needs to change the way it recycles, or if it needs to charge property owners more to help with those costs.

Rebecca Culler, the county’s recycling program manager, said demand for the curbside recycling program is growing: About 150 households are added weekly.

One of the issues, however, is that in the past year, commodity prices of several recyclables dropped considerably. And the overall cost of recycling this year has been more than $6 million, Culler said.

Those costs are:

  • $3.5 million to collect residents’ recycling curbside.
  • $2 million to $2.5 million for processing costs.
  • $1 million to ship the recyclables to the materials processing center in Elkridge. There, the recyclables are sorted, bailed and sold on the market.

Despite these costs, Culler and Annmarie Creamer, a recycling outreach program analyst with the county, said recycling operations are not meant to make money for the county.

Still, county officials are going to have to decide how to deal with the aforementioned deficit. At a County Council meeting in late October, senior officials in the Division of Utilities and Solid Waste Management told council members it’s possible that the system benefit charge, or SBC, could be increased to pay for some of those costs, and to increase recycling and similar services countywide.

Currently, the SBC is $88 annually for residential properties. For commercial businesses, it varies from $42 to $372 annually, Culler said.

Culler and Creamer said the SBC hasn’t been changed since the county’s recycling program started more than a decade ago, so it makes sense to raise it, given the county’s increased demands.

No matter what happens, they also said it’s unlikely the county will change what it accepts for its curbside program in the near future. Culler said recycling, despite its costs, is important from an environmental perspective.

“There are known benefits to recycling, and it comes straight down to resource recovery,” Culler said. “So metal is only on our planet one time, how you choose to use it and where you choose to dispose of it, makes a huge difference in further mining of metals, and how we choose to reuse that.

“From a resource recovery standpoint, recycling is always going to be the better option. It’s always going to be more sustainable.”

Residents can assist county officials in their efforts by keeping their recyclables clean, which helps lead to more valuable products once they reach the Elkridge site, Creamer said.

“You’d be surprised the number of people who get through half their container of Cheez Whiz or spaghetti sauce ... and decide it’s past their expiration date and will put it into the [blue] bin,” she said.

The contamination rate, or percentage of items that end up not being recyclable and tossed into the trash, is currently 10 percent, according to a recent analysis done by the county. Creamer and Culler said that’s good compared with the national average — roughly 25 percent — but noted there’s always room for improvement.

Councilman Phil Dacey (R), however, has concerns about recycling costs. In October, he initiated questioning with officials about what is being done to address cost.

Dacey is against increasing the SBC, and noted the county could be saving money on fuel costs and other areas if it re-examines how and what it recycles.

“It sounds good and makes people feel good, but I think it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re good fiscal stewards,” Dacey said of the overall costs.

“There’s value beyond the dollars and cents and we’re using fewer raw materials,” he added when asked about whether the county should recycle despite the costs. “But I do think the market will largely determine that information and that kind of feedback.”

Councilman Kai Hagen (D) wasn’t opposed to increasing the SBC, but said the county needs to look at other recycling alternatives.

“Before I would support an increase in the system benefit charge, I would like to see a greater, more effective commitment to reducing organic material and other items in our waste stream,” Hagen said.

No matter what happens, Creamer and Culler urged residents reach out via social media, email or phone if they have questions about recycling. Creamer said the public has a say when it comes to recycling issues, and how they want the system to work.

“The voters have a huge sway. Public input in Frederick County matters a lot. ... The public voice carries a lot of weight with the County Council and the county executive. ... What do they want to see in their community?” she said.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(72) comments

des21

I was saddened recently when I got a notice telling me that Fred Co recycling would no longer accept bags of plastic bags. Their suggestion- either take them to someplace (like Food Lion) that still accepts bags (fewer and fewer grocery stores do and maybe they just throw them out, IDK) or throw them in the trash! Really? Sad. (And before the usual suspects lecture me on relying on store bags, i generally bring my own when i think of it but I'm talking about bags which hold frozen vegetable, packing materials, etc. Throwing it all out can't be the best solution right?)

threecents

Unfortunately, old bags cannot be recycled into new bags. There is not much that can economically be done with them. Most grocery stores around me still take them for recycling. Even Kohl's takes them.

mrnatural1

A couple thoughts related to the comments below:

1) We should have a "pay as you throw" system.

My wife and I compost and recycle as much as possible. Because we live in the woods we can drop our compostable materials off the deck and into an enclosed compost pile. There are black plastic bins that can be rotated manually that are more 'socially acceptable'.

Our trash is typically one (1) standard size white kitchen trash bag per week. That's it. Often we do not have enough trash for one bag and skip a week. To prevent the trash from smelling we temporarily freeze any bones and meat scraps.

Meanwhile, there are families that put out 4-5 trash cans full of garbage every week, yet they pay the same amount we do. There's no incentive to reduce the amount of trash a person/family generates. County residents should pay by weight and/or volume.

No, I have no idea how that would work. Maybe people could request a bin -- like the recycling bins -- that are large enough for a typical week's worth of trash. They would pay according to the size. If they have to use more than the bin can hold, they would be charged an additional fee. The fee would be reasonable, but enough that if they routinely had to use an additional trash can it would make more sense to get a larger trash bin.

2) As for the trash blowing around after trash and recycling pickup days, one thing that would really help is if people would put their trash in sealed bags, and paper to be recycled in cardboard boxes or paper bags.

3) Last I heard, Germany requires all mfrs to take back and recycle all packaging. That gives the companies motivation to use easily recyclable materials.

Lev928

Instead of recycling, why don't we destroy it all? Instead of throwing it in a landfill, how about burning it? Oh, wait ... climate change. That's right. So, instead of actually destroying the refuse, we pile it all up because of an ill-fated claim.

KellyAlzan

can you believe Sam Yu is STILL shooting pictures for the FNP??? (im referring to the photo credit for the story)

I remember like yesterday in 3rd grade (late 70's?) when Sam came to our school and took pictures for the paper!

mrnatural1

Sam does a great job!

matts853

So interesting reading these comments. The usual right wing extremists - you know who you are - are all against recycling. And of note, they’re consistently anti climate science and pro Trump. So, what is it with you people? It’s all about you and to heck with society and future generations. Everything is a liberal conspiracy. Has there been a sociology experiment to determine if some people are genetically predisposed to hate the environment?

I’ve been home composting for years. I also diligently recycle with the blue bins, but also take any hard plastic items and scrap metal to the dump. Moms Market takes potato chip bags, toothpaste tubes, and the beauty supply canisters that my wife and daughter toxify the house with, so I save all that stuff to and run it up every few weeks. I was also taking the clam shell containers there, but they told me they won’t be accepting them in the new year. I guess I’m going to have hand chop all the veggies and stuff we buy.

Anyway, I think a federal law needs to be passed requiring post consumer use recycling labels on merchandise. People buy stuff not knowing or even realizing the post use environmental ramifications of the purchase. They should be informed on the proper way to dispose of the item beforehand, and what’s garbage and what’s recyclable. That’s something I’ve been conscious about for a couple years. We’re from getting to bury ourselves in trash and choke ourselves on the pollution generated from all this crap we buy and toss out. It ain’t looking good for planet Earth, but hey, live it up while you can!

ma23464

The best thing for the environment is to stop creating the trash in the first place. 40 years ago we didn’t have everyone drinking bottled water. Packaging was less and life was simpler. I am sure the e-commerce crazy has greatly increased trash with all the extra packaging. Reducing the need for recycling is the solution

KellyAlzan

look at all the trash this fast food craze is creating

MrSniper

Recycling isn’t rocket science. It works when the market forces are right for it...which is literally always. It’s not a left or right issue. It’s a quality of life for our children issue. Grow up. Do the right thing & support long term sustainable policies for our community.

hayduke2

MrSniper - [thumbup]

hayduke2

America has become the king of over packaging, single use and throw away items. Recycling is an attempt to mitigate some of these impacts but is far from perfect and relies on a market for the recycled materials. Recycling is often tagged onto waste management and, in many cases, isn't designed to be efficient or cost effective. Innovation is needed. That said, we should strive to reduce and reuse as much of our waste as possible in addition to recycling it. Complaining and/or not complying is doing nothing to address and solve the problem.

Obadiah Plainsmen

Lets see how the biggest city in America is tackling this problem.

https://citylimits.org/2019/09/17/other-cities-face-trash-crises-but-nyc-is-navigating-chinas-recycling-import-ban/

bryan

So...we have wanted China to step up to the plate and begin complying with pollution standards that we have met here in the US years ago. And other countries have too. Well...they started doing that last year as a “anti pollution initiative” and part of that was to quit buying the US recyclables. Yet, the tree huggers in Oregon just keep separating their Kombucha bottles and Vegan pizza boxes, piling up all over the place. Recycling is a joke. Read it here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2018/05/29/climate/recycling-landfills-plastic-papers.amp.html

MD1756

If you don't want to pay to recycle the garbage you generate, maybe you can just keep your trash on your property and get the county/city to take the charges off your taxes.

KR999

Anyone who doesn't want to pay to have their garbage recycled just has to quit putting it in blue bins. The only thing I recycle is aluminum cans because I get paid for them, I don't pay to get rid of them. All other trash my wife and I generate goes into trash bags to be picked up by the trash men.

duffy5x

Only source of income...

KellyAlzan

amazing

gardenwhimsey

Whether you participate in the County recycle program or not, you are still paying for it. It is built into the property taxes fees. If you are a renter, you also pay for the service because the proper owner pays it through his/her property taxes and the proper owner passes it on to the renter by raising the rent.

hgiii123

Because another country reduced/stopped taking OUR recyclables makes recycling a joke? Seriously. And this coming from someone who recently ran, unsuccessfully, for City Alderman! (China stopped because of the poor quality of American recyclables (often contaminated) and changes in market prices for recycled material (market fluctuations and drop in prices). That does and should not lead to a wholesale termination of our recycling efforts. AND, if you READ THE ARTICLE you referenced, only a small percentage of the total recycled material is land-filled. Guess the solution is to keep extracting more natural resources, producing even more stuff to land-fill. That doesn't sound like much of a solution, Bryan! (We need to start following the Zero Waste pyramid philosophy and attack the problem at the source: Packaging that reduces landfilling and recycling needs to begin with, IMHO. And, to continue to recycle and educate our citizens on how to do it correctly.)

hayduke2

hgii- [thumbup][thumbup]

hayduke2

Nonsense post and a too over-simplified look at the issue.

Burgessdr

Recycling is a joke. Most get landfilled

shiftless88

Reading through these comments I am amazed. It is just about the easiest thing in the world to sort out what is taken and what is not. You get something in the mail, you can look it up online, and you can get an app. I barely have to think about it because overall it is fairly consistent.

LibertyLost

This is from Bloomberg Dec. 14. 2019: "A new A$100 million ($69 million) investment fund aims to boost the proportion of refuse recycled in Australia and encourage innovation to prevent trash from ending up in landfills, the government said.

The Australian Recycling Investment Fund, to be managed by the Clean Energy Finance Corp. (CEFC), is part of a A$167 million government plan to tackle plastic waste and halve food waste by 2030, Environment Minister Sussan Ley said in a statement Sunday."

If the money is there for hotels, conference centers, parking lots, schools, schools, schools, then by God there is money to engineer and build a realistic, tangible and fuild waste system. We have roads. We have schools, and those tidy little pop sheds out back of virtually every newly constructed school. Frederick sits between three incinerators, and yet that is still not enough to manage the garbage from its consumption?

And let's forget the added punk routine of adding taxes to realise a local - advanced waste processing system. Work with what you have taken. The money is there if it is there for the usual suspects of public treasury burdens.

MD1756

[thumbup]Liberty. It seems slike people want more money for their schools but aren't willing to pay to clean up after themselves. Those who don't want to pay or don't want to figure out how to recycle (and as you point out it really is pretty easy) can as an alternative just keep their waste from their consumption on their own property where they won't have to pay anythting or figure out what to recycle or not.

ma23464

Reducing waste at the source is the key.

KMRD1

Just another reason I left Frederick County

duffy5x

So you moved to an Amish farm?

KellyAlzan

Feel better?

rbtdt5

Agree with all those saying to end this program. I don't recycle. Mostly because the day after the recycling gets picked up my street looks like a 3rd world country. I have to pick up all my neighbors trash or recycling that falls out when the guys are putting it in the truck. Although with all the revenue that the county is going to make off their new balloon ban, maybe that could offset these costs.

hayduke2

Really? I have not had that experience ( looking like a third world country ). Either way, recycle or not, you will pay. Either in terms of increased collection fees or the continued degradation of the planet.

rbtdt5

Then you are lucky, you must have good crew that does your street. Please drive up any street in downtown the morning after recycling pick up and you see all the trash left behind. And the amount of trash I throw away is less than a drop a water in the bucket. If it's that big of a deal, go after the 10 companies that make up over 70% of that trash and have them change packaging.

shiftless88

where do you live? That is completely not the situation in my town. Perhaps you need to complain? Sounds like it is an isolated issue.

rbtdt5

Shift, downtown Frederick, I invite you come down and drive up any street the morning after recycling.

shiftless88

have you reported that to the recyclers? Judging from the lack of such in our neighborhood, it seems isolated to a specific carrier and I am sure the city would like to know that.

rbtdt5

I have reported it to the county. Also complained about the guys not knowing how to pull up their pants. Either way, I have chosen not to participate in that program anymore. Maybe someone will run for CE that wants to end it.

sevenstones1000

I don’t recycle. Never have. Can’t figure out what they will and won’t take, and I would rather not contribute to rising taxes by burdening the recycling system even more.

We need to concentrate on ways to burn all trash including plastic and convert to energy.

MD1756

Burning is only a stop gap solution since it comes with its own problems whereby you change solid waste into air pollution. Waste to energy facilities do not control 100% of their emissions, particularly not CO2. There is no good reason not to recycle. Do the planet a favor and help clean up after yourself.

sevenstones1000

MD1756 - we need to develop new technologies - I’m not suggesting we just burn everything in a pit.

New technologies that convert all kinds of trash and garbage into energy without polluting. I believe that is possible.

MD1756

When you burn trash you create other pollutants (air and ash). Some of those pollutants can be far worse than the solid waste you've burned including heavy metals, dioxins and furans that can be released into the atmosphere. No pollution control technology is 100% effective even it the plant operator is complying with all of the regulations and permits. From an environmental standpoint, i order listed, reduce, reuse and recycle are all preferred over energy recovery (which is the last step above disposal). Acording to a Scientific American article: (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-burning-garbage-to-produce-energy-make-sense/ ), "While not taking a direct stance on the petition, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) also presented some concerns. The DEC wrote in its comments that Covanta was denied entry to the RPS in 2004 because in the year 2000, mercury emissions from waste-to-energy facilities in New York were an average of six times higher than coal.

The report also found waste-to-energy facilities "continue to emit most air pollutants at emission rates that are greater than coal-fired power plants on a per megawatt-hour (MWh) basis."

matts853

When you burn, you lose the original material vs. if you recycled it and the energy recaptured doesn’t come close to the future energy expenses of remaking the materials from scratch. So by its nature, it’s not a renewable process. And then there’s the air pollution and toxic ash disposal.

We need to focus on changing manufacturer and consumer behavior. Package less, buy less, recycle more. What we’re doing isn’t sustainable and is irresponsible.

hayduke2

seven - really? The list put out by the county is pretty clear and the effort is minimal. BTW, we will contribute to rising taxes if we add to the wast system by not recycling.

Quisling

Recycling is too complicated? I hope you don't operate an automobile and work a simplistic job that has zero responsibility.

sevenstones1000

Actually I have been driving a car with zero citations for decades. Can’t say the same about you, I’m sure.

KellyAlzan

pretty sure quisling wasn't thinking about "citations" when he / she wrote to you. I think you missed the point?

leximarch

It’s not that hard to figure out. The county provides lots of resources to help folks learn the system. Seems like a lack of effort.

MrSniper

They literally send you a list of what is & isn’t recyclable. What more can you ask for? You want to be respected as an adult but you can’t even comprehend how to read a recycle list?

gary4books

Recycling is expensive now. It takes work to sort it out and some plastics are difficult to recycle. New technology in chemistry is making better plastics for the environment and new chemicals can dissolve current plastics into stock for the new products. Technology can lower our costs and enable us to recycle more materials. Sorting can be enhanced with computer-managed systems, but al this will take an investment for the future. The question to answer is "How much will it cost if we do not recycle?" How many landfills and how much to haul the garbage to landfills? Even if it cost, what will the benefits of recycling be? A real analysis of the situation will look at benefits as well as costs and then at what we will do as an alternative to recycling.

matts853

One person’s benefit is another person’s cost. Some will want to make policy based on costs, some on what’s best for the environment. It all depends on what priorities people value the most. Me, I’m happy to pay more if it benefits the environment.

Frayou

Trash & recyclables are picked up in western sections, but amazing how much trash can be seen along roadsides of 340, suspect lost from open trash vehicles.

Frayou

Always convenient to raise taxes on the homeowners. What about everyone else?

User1

So tax me $88 and a small business $42? Years ago there was no problem dropping off your separated recyclables at the blue metallic bins. Now Frederick County has decided to not take certain “clean” recyclables for some unknown reason. These are the plastic shopping bags, clear containers that held lettuce. All plainly labeled as recyclable. But certain grocery stores accept them with no problem. Where do they take theirs? Just another case of mismanagement by the county.

Dwasserba

There has to be a market for the recyclables or it's just trash mixed in with marketable items.

niceund

Recycling in Frederick county is a joke. Poor management, lack of responsibility on the part of the collectors what the round brush and constant reduction in what is "acceptable". As usual, Frederick County thinks that increasing fees will help.

mjgreeves

What is the cost per ton for recycling vs sending it to a landfill. Without that number, how can anyone say recycling is a waste of money? I will support the most economical process, once it is clear what that is.

gary4books

MJ - [thumbup][thumbup]

MD1756

Landfills basically make the land useless for other activities (except maybe solar farms).

Dwasserba

PA is too amenable to making itself a landfill or fracking landscape.

bryan

Recycling needs to stop, it is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Last year China quit buying our plastic recyclables. This means instead of them paying us, we have to pay someone else to take them. Only a very small percentage gets recycled and it ends up in the dump. Same for paper, not so much for glass. The average person does not even know that a pizza box cannot be recycled- if there is ANY grease on it, it goes to the dump. As for burning trash for electricity- I have been in the Baltimore RESCO facility and 95% of the trash that comes in goes right back out to the dump. Ask anyone actually in the trash and recycling business and they will confirm all this. So basically we have deliberately inefficient system of trash collection (two parallel services doing the same thing) and it all ends up in the dump....but we "feel good" because we "think" we're doing something good. NOW- I am all for helping the earth and the environment, so lets refocus on REDUCING the amount of non recycleables we use- reduce use of plastics especially.

MD1756

Just shows we need more regulations to make people more responsible for the aste they generate. Endless landfills is not the solution especially since the human population problem continues to grow (roughly 7.7+ billion people and increasing) and continues to consume more land area.

matts853

👍🏻 I agree 1756. As we’ve learned from many of the commentators here, they just don’t give a crap about what they consume and throw away. If they can’t or won’t be socially responsible on their own accord, then government is left with little choice to step in and force behavior changes. Any one with common sense and ounce of empathy toward the environment and future generations knows that we have a moral obligation to STOP polluting.

Cowell

[thumbup]

Dwasserba

WASH those re-usable bags and keep them in your car for purchases.

Comment deleted.
lobo4109

Jan Gardner needs to stop wasting tax money. This is just plain stupid. Why would the citizens pay out of their own pockets for a company to take away some of their trash and through their tax money pay another company to take away the rest of their trash and all of it ending up at the same place on the floor of the transfer station. Just put everything in blue bin and save yourself some money. Some people have already figured this out and have no private trash service.

RobertG

Waste to energy plants are always a good idea.

MD1756

Not if you like clean air. Waste to energy is only s stop gap solution.

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