Discount offered on plants to compost waste Arundel is among counties considering volume price cut; Microbes do the work; Alternative to landfill could save money and environment


A national refuse-disposal company offered a half-dozen suburban counties, including Anne Arundel and Carroll, a volume discount yesterday on trash-munching microbes.

Nelson Widell, executive vice president of Bedminster Bioconversion Corp., told a group of elected officials in Annapolis that the company would reduce its prices if several of the counties decided to build composting plants for mixed solid waste.

The plants would rely on bacteria -- the same ones found in the decaying grass clippings and leaves in the back yard -- to turn trash, from pizza boxes to old shoes, into nutrient-rich dirt.

"I've got to believe there are some enormous savings for all of us," said Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary, who organized the meeting.

Frederick, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties also sent representatives.

Frederick County is 'going to look at it," said Mark L. Hoke, president of the Board of Commissioners, which considered composting several years ago but ruled it out because of the high cost.

Mr. Widell, whose company has built plants in Pinetop, Ariz., and Sevier County, Tenn., said the ideal plant would receive about 300 tons of trash and 150 tons of sludge a day. That is about the capacity of a $24 million plant the company is building for Cobb County, Ga.

Mr. Widell said his company would offer "a better price" to the counties, whether they wanted to band together to purchase several plants or share a regional composting plant.

How large a discount the counties could negotiate "depends on how good of business people we are," Mr. Gary said, adding that he believes the counties could knock 25 percent or more off the cost of each plant they order.

The mounting costs and environmental risks of landfills have spurred suburban leaders to explore alternatives to burying garbage.

"Our problem is just about like everyone else's," said St. Mary's County Commissioner Frances P. Eagan. "Our landfill is just about full, and we have to find $12 million to buy another one."

Mr. Gary said he would like to include money in next year's budget to build at the Millersville landfill a plant capable of composting 250 tons of trash daily. The county receives 800 tons of residential trash every day at the pub- owned landfill.

Carroll County officials said they, too, could decide next spring whether to build a similar plant at their Northern Landfill outside Westminster.

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