About two years ago Scott Menzies was having breakfast at the downtown Omni International Hotel with Brazilian wood pulp industry executives and officials of the Maryland Port Administration when he proposed a recycling center in Baltimore that could generate recyclable waste paper for export.
"They kind of looked at me like I was crazy," Mr. Menzies said yesterday. Crazy or not, he is about to see his idea come to fruition. In May, the Mid-Atlantic Recycling Corp., of which he is chairman, will open what is billed as the nation's largest paper recycling plant.
The plant will occupy the second floor of a state-owned warehouse on a Clinton Street pier in Canton -- space that has been vacant for more than a decade. The planned operation will have the capacity to sort and bundle 300,000 tons of waste paper a year, a figure that roughly equals all the recyclable paper generated annually in the Baltimore metropolitan area.
That's no coincidence, according to David. C. Tolzmann Jr., Mid-Atlantic's president. "We would expect to be the principal processor," he said. "Doing it this way on an industrial scale is a new concept."
DTC If the scheme succeeds, the list of beneficiaries will be a long one:
* The Maryland Port Administration. The port agency has been trying for years to find a suitable tenant for the second floor of its Pier 1 Clinton Street warehouse. The new recycling plant will pay at least $70,000 a year in rent. As tonnage grows, the annual rent would reach as high as $320,000.
* Local municipalities. Cities and counties will have increased incentive to carry out recycling programs because of an assured market for the paper they collect. Mid-Atlantic will sort and grade the waste paper, increasing its value on the market. The price local governments receive will be tied to market price, allowing communities to share in the increased revenue if prices rise.
* Paper companies. A variety of states, including Maryland, have passed laws or reached agreements with the newspaper industry requiring increased use of recycled material in the production of newsprint.
In Maryland the requirement is for 12 percent recycled paper in 1992, rising to 40 percent by the turn of the century, according to Mr. Tolzmann. Other states have similar requirements. The plant recycling project should simplify the ability of paper mills to obtain the paper they will need to meet their customers' requirements for recycled material.
* The port of Baltimore. Export waste paper could become an important commodity. Many of the specialized ships that unload baled wood pulp in Baltimore sail away empty. Some of these ships could begin to carry waste paper.
* Consolidated Rail Corp. The rail cars that carry newsprint to metropolitan markets usually are not permitted to carry other kinds of cargo. Consequently, the rail cars are empty when they return to paper mills. Conrail serves the Clinton Street facility. By carrying waste paper on "the backhaul," as it is called in the transportation industry, Conrail can begin generating additional revenue. Conrail has been "very aggressive" in setting attractive rates that will make transportation of the waste paper economical, Mr. Tolzmann said.
* Commercial waste haulers. Much of the waste they collect contains many kinds of paper mixed together. The new plant will sort the paper, making it much more valuable as a recycled product.
Mr. Tolzmann, the president of Mid-Atlantic Recycling, said the facility will have eight conveyor belts, extending a total of about 1,000 feet. Trucks using a ramp that extends from the street to the upper level of the warehouse will be able to drive right into the recycling plant and dump their loads at one end of the conveyor system.
The paper will then be pushed onto the conveyors, where it will be sorted by employees stationed along the line.
The plant is expected to employ about 12 people at the beginning. That number could grow to about 45. The project is being funded with a $1.5 million private bank loan. The state has provided $1 million in loan guarantees to help Mid-Atlantic gain the financing.
"All of our finished product flows to the Terminal Corp.," Mr. Tolzmann explained. Terminal will store the paper bales on the first floor and load them onto trucks and rail cars for delivery to customers.
Mr. Menzies is president of the Terminal Corp., a warehouse and distribution company. Terminal Corp. now uses the first floor for a wallboard and plywood distribution business. As the recycling project grows, the plan is for the waste paper to displace the wallboard and plywood operation, which would be moved to another site.
Mr. Menzies is also president of Tartan Terminals, a stevedoring company that unloads ships bringing wood pulp to Baltimore. Someday, Mr. Menzies hopes, those same ships will come to Clinton Street to be loaded with waste paper for export.
Mr. Menzies noted that the port of New York exports about a million tons of waste paper a year, while the port of Baltimore handles only about 70,000 tons. "There's tremendous potential," said for increased exports of waste paper through the port of Baltimore.
Mr. Tolzmann insists the key to success will be his plant's ability to sort and separate different kinds of paper. Newsprint is worth much more if it isn't mixed up with cereal boxes, he explained.