Baltimore County's new recycling sorting facility in Cockeysville has turned a profit of nearly $750,000 in four months and could raise as much as $2 million in net revenue this year, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said Friday.
"We're running a business here that's actually making money," Kamenetz said following a tour of the facility on Warren Road in Cockeysville. "We're returning that profit back to the taxpayers."
The $23 million facility, which opened Nov. 19, uses a series of belts, machinery and people to separate the 35 tons of recyclable materials that are sorted every hour. The new machinery was installed to create efficiency for the county, Kamenetz said.
"We decided we could start managing the process ourselves rather than paying other companies to do it," Kamenetz said. "We decided we could sort our recyclables ourselves, as opposed to sending that and shipping that out. … The best part is, by doing so, we retain the full economic benefit for the taxpayers."
Walt Fraser, the plant manager, said there were 400 tons of recyclables on the floor of the plant late Friday morning. By the end of the day about 300 tons of that will have been processed, Fraser said.
Friday's event was meant to both tout the gains in recycling in Baltimore County, and set for the future the ambitious goal of collecting a 50-50 ratio of garbage to recycables.
In 2009, the year before Baltimore County instituted single-stream recycling, the county collected 36,167 tons of recycling and 385,553 tons of trash. Since then, the recycling collection rose to 53,714 tons and trash fell to 316,523 tons.
While much of the gains came in 2010, when single-stream recycling made it easier for residents to participate, Kamenetz and county Recycling and Waste Prevention Manager Charles Reighart said 50-50 was a "very reasonable" goal. Sixteen percent of the materials collected are currently recyclable, Reighart said.
Part of the county's efforts to improve the recycling-trash ratio will be the resurrection of a recycling volunteer program —which is how the county's recycling program began in 1990.
"Baltimore County's recycling program got started on a grassroots level," Reighart said. "Thousands of residents were giving three hours a weekend, every weekend to staff nine volunteer recycling drop-off centers around this county. … Now, we're calling for volunteer action again — with guidance, support and information from the county's recycling staff to build a recycling volunteer network around the county."
Reighart said volunteers will be asked to set a good example for neighbors and family by recycling all they can themselves, and by occasionally going door to door to distribute information on recycling and encourage participation.
The county also believes its new monthly tours of the recycling plant on Warren Road will also increase participation and awareness of the recycling efforts.
"It's obviously something that's fun to watch, how they sort this, but it can also increase public awareness," Kamenetz said. "The more people who are aware of what we do here, the more incentive they will have to recycle."
The first tour was given Friday to students from Catonsville High's Green Club, who said they were impressed. The students were chosen for the first tour because the club recently began recycling efforts at the high school, and are seeking Green School certification for Catonsville High.
Junior Alice Xei, 16, of Catonsville, said the plant was "very efficient and very well done."
Fellow junior Miranda Sanders, 16, of Catonsville, said she learned a lot about the county's recycling process through the tour.
"I've learned how much money goes into this," she said. "It's fantastic, it's huge and it's running really smoothly. It looks like it can only get better from here."
To organize a tour of the facility or become a recycling volunteer, contact Public Works Public Information Specialist Clyde Trombetti at firstname.lastname@example.org.