Burning trash seen as option

As the cost of hauling trash soars and landfill space becomes more precious, Carroll County is considering a trash-burning facility - possibly in conjunction with Frederick County - to reduce solid waste and discharge steam in the process to create electricity, Carroll public works chief J. Michael Evans said.

While the county updates its 10-year solid waste-management plan, estimates on the expensive waste-to-energy plant are being researched.


The solid-waste plan, which the state requires to be updated every three years, also focuses on expanding recycling services, measuring the economic impact of waste removal and identifying new cells for the county's Northern Landfill.

"The bottom line is the cost of doing business is going to go up and up and up," Evans said. "Our option at this stage is to look at ways of disposing of garbage, hopefully in a way that does not fill our landfill up as fast."


To encourage more residents to recycle, Evans said the county is pursuing a single-stream recycling program where all recyclable material (paper, plastic, glass and aluminum) is mixed together in one bin to be picked up curbside. Any standard garbage truck could then be used to transport the pooled recyclable materials together to a plant for sorting.

While the county requires its five trash contractors to offer residents curbside recycling, Evans said a number of residents find it taxing to separate paper from everything else.

"There was a great deal of enthusiasm and energy at first, but after a while it got to be a bother," Evans said. "If we can improve our recycling rates, we put less of this bulk into our landfills or pay less to have it hauled to someone else's landfill."

Currently, 90 percent of the 300,000 tons of trash Carroll produces annually is trucked to Virginia's King George Landfill south of Richmond, Evans said. He said one truck could haul 20 tons at a time.

But state law requires the county to acquire new landfill space, even if, through recycling and future trash-burning efforts, the cells start to be filled at a slower rate, Evans said.

The third out of five cells at the Northern Landfill is being prepared with a massive plastic liner. But Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge stressed that landfills are no longer a cheap or environmentally sound option.

Even after a landfill is closed, wells to test for leaching pollutants have to be drilled for some 30 years, Gouge said.

"Garbage is not decaying like it used to," she said. "I do not think people realize the great expense."


The ash produced by a trash-burning facility is one-tenth the mass of the garbage that would otherwise go to a landfill, Evans said. The ash can then be used as a thickener in paving roads and as a cover layer in landfills.

Yet such facilities are not without environmental costs. Evans said carbon emissions produced by the plant would be tightly regulated.

A waste-to-energy plant for Carroll would be similar to the Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems Co. (BRESCO), which creates steam heat by burning garbage from Baltimore City and most of Baltimore County. The state's only other trash-burning plants include one in Montgomery County and another in Harford County that operates for Aberdeen Proving Ground, Evans said.

In late March, Evans will bring bids before the commissioners from vendors who would design, build and operate the trash-burning facility, which he said could come on line in April 2011.

A public hearing on the 10-year waste plan will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the county office building, 225 N. Center St., Westminster .