Baltimore County opens $23M recycling facility in Cockeysville

Baltimore County's new $23 million recycling facility at the Texas Acceptance Facility in Cockeysville could bring in as much as $2 million annually through the sale of sorted recyclables, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said Tuesday at the center's unveiling.

"We're not only doing what makes sense environmentally, but at the same time, we're making sense fiscally," Kamenetz said during the event. "We believe that the operation of this facility will allow Baltimore County to earn $750,000 a year, up to $2 million a year in profit that we will bring back into our general fund. That's really turning trash into cash."

The recycling facility, which Kamenetz, Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert Summers, Maryland Environmental Services Director Jim Harkins, and other county officials unveiled Tuesday, is half of a two-part project to improve the waste infrastructure in Baltimore County.

The single-stream Material Recovery Facility (MRF), which is housed in a building that already stood in the grounds, cost $13 million, Kamenetz said. The new municipal solid waste transfer facility cost $6 million and opened for partial operations in May. An additional $4 million was spent on design and infrastructure improvements at the Cockeysville site.

The MRF takes loads of unsorted recyclables through a series of sorting machines and conveyor belts that span multiple stories inside the facility. In addition to manual sorters, a series of magnets, blowers, and other mechanisms separate the materials into glass, plastic, paper and metals, which are then bundled for sale.

The facility, which officials said will create 13 new jobs, can process 35 tons of materials per hour, allowing it to sort over 70,000 tons of recyclables a year.

Kamenetz said that the bales produced so far at the Cockeysville facility "are some of the cleanest bales around, which means we get paid more money.

"In the first two weeks of starting up, we've already sold $81,000 worth of paper, and that's just the paper alone," he said.

When the County Council approved the project in November 2011, Baltimore County was trucking residents' recycling for processing to other jurisdictions at a cost to the taxpayer and county. The planned new facility would not only allow all of the county's materials to be processed but also had the capacity to serve other jurisdictions.

In June, Baltimore County and Harford County entered into a multi-faceted agreement that will see recycling from Harford County hauled to Baltimore County, an arrangement officials said could generate $60,000 per month for Baltimore County. That arrangement will begin in 2014.

In July 2012, Baltimore County borrowed $25 million from the county pension system, a move that drew questions at the time and eventually led to a lawsuit from the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4.

County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler confirmed that lawsuit was dismissed in October, and said the loan was paid back within a year with $500,000 interest.

Alison Knezevich contributed to this story.

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