Friday, March 6–County Plan Stresses More Recycling

SNOW HILL – A state required solid waste planning document, overdue for two years now, is ready for public hearing, staff told the Worcester County Commissioners this week.

“We’ve been working on this for a couple of years and finally received tentative approval from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE),” Public Works Director John Tustin told the County Comissioners on Tuesday.

In March 2007, county staff learned that the lack of a new and approved solid waste plan put the county in violation of the Environmental Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland.

Now that the draft has MDE’s blessing, the county must hold a public hearing, and the commissioners must sign off on the document, before the Solid Waste Management Plan will be fully accepted by the state. Planning staff must also sign off on the trash guidelines. The document must be adopted by May 4.

The plan includes short-term, mid-term, and long-term plans for the next decade after approval. 

“This is a guideline for where we’re going to be over the next 10 years,” said Tustin.

One issue identified by the draft plan is recycling, which at 34 percent, is over twice the 15 percent goal set by the Maryland Recycling Act for Worcester County. That number reflects not just household and commercial recycling, however. Nineteen percent comes from reuse of chicken manure. Without recycled chicken waste, the Worcester County recycling rate is just16 percent.

Worcester County’s chicken manure processing facilities have recently closed, which will cause the recycling rate to fall.

The plan concludes that additional recycling efforts are needed to raise the amount of reusable waste diverted from the county landfill. The county might need more infrastructure or personnel to increase recycling.

The county is also looking at waste minimization, to reduce trash and prolong the usable life of landfill cells, which goes hand in hand with recycling. Using cloth bags for purchases can save up to 104 long-lasting plastic bags a year per citizen, according to the draft guidelines.

In the short term, within the next five years, the plan lists the beginning of design and permitting work for an additional cell at the landfill, plans to begin reclaiming and mining Cell 1, hopes to create a plan to increase recycling, and will look into a mandatory curbside recycling program.

The draft guidelines also call for work on more cells at the county landfill in six to 10 years, as well as relining a cell and mining more cells. The mid-term plans also include consideration of new technologies for better trash processing, less leachate, and more re-use of trash gas for energy.

Long-term goals under the draft solid waste plan are less defined, but follow the same vein, continuing mining and reclamation, adding cells, pursuing property south of the current 725-acre site for the future, and investigating incineration of trash and other alternatives for dealing with solid waste disposal.

Most aspects of the Worcester County trash handling approach will remain the same.

One change already requested for the future is the addition of more scrap tire drop off days.

“Everyone looks forward to that. Is there any possibility to get that more often?” Commissioner Virgil Shockley asked Tustin.

The current scrap tire collection and disposal day is funded by the State of Maryland, Tustin said. If Worcester County accepts scrap tires otherwise, the county would pay for disposal and any other costs.

Shockley said staff should at least approach the state about adding tire collection days.

“Before we started the program, you’d go down country roads and see tires,” Shockley said.

Many people now store their used tires and bring them in to be disposed of properly at the appointed dates.

“I’d rather have them collected. I’d rather have people observing the law,” said Shockley. “It’s something that actually works, is what I’m saying.”

That decision is up to the state, unless the county would pay for disposal.

“We ought to make the effort at least to inform them that down here it’s working … if you don’t ask you’re sure not going to get,” said Shockley.

The plan contains some good news. The central landfill should last another 20 years, at the current solid waste disposal rate of 165,000 tons a year. The landfill’s active life could be extended through mining as well, perhaps indefinitely.

The public hearing was scheduled for April 21. Once approved, the solid waste management plan will stand until 2019.