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[GreenYes] Re: let's make it clear what the real challenge is...

Hi there, Greenyes list ~

Eric is absolutely correct that citizens need to line up to speak to the Frederick County Commission and demand that the County cease collecting "mixed waste" and burning and burying it. Mixed waste collection made sense a century ago when most (75% in studies from that period) municipal waste was ashes from coal furnaces. Today's waste is different and absolutely requires much more careful handling. Not only are there hazardous substances embedded in the products we buy and discard, but the highly engineered and refined materials in waste contain much more "embodied energy" (the energy required to replace them) than what they would generate in a so-called "waste to energy" incinerator. Communities that use waste incinertors are burning the furniture to heat the house.

Our metropolitan region is facing exactly the same dilemma as Frederick County. We have rising waste volumes (46% compounded increase in past 7 years) and imminent expiry of an existing landfill.

However our elected officials response was to take an action not suggested by their professional staff: on their own initiative they issued a "Zero Waste Challenge" to the citizens and municipalities in the region.

They backed this up by instructing staff to:
- prepare a bylaw raising the fee for disposal in comparison to the fee for source separated yard waste;
- prepare a bylaw banning disposal of recyclable materials and providing resources to enforce it;
- get serious about finding a way to compost the food-waste that comprises 40% of our waste, reduces the efficiency of our state-of-the-art incinerator and emits the GHG methane in our landfills (only 20% of which is captured by our state-of-the-art methane capture system).

The staff have been busy. Our region will soon begin a pilot of a food-waste composting system being successfully used by Seattle. Citizens have formed a committee called Zero Waste Vancouver, which will be organizing a citizens' delegation to Seattle to inspect how the food-waste collection program works on the ground: what is it like to separate your yucky food waste from the garbage? Are people having trouble getting use to this? We will be videotaping people's comments and kitchens, and bringing their stories back to share with our citizens. We will be happy to share our findings with citizens' groups in other communities, such as Frederick County, to show their elected officials and fellow citizens.

It is time for citizens to speak up, as they did a century ago, and demand that their elected officials put in place programs that will solve the problems of today, which are excess consumption and climate change.


At 02:52 PM 9/27/2007, Eric Lombardi wrote:
Greetings Zero Wasters,
The following quote (from the article below) sums up our challenge if we are to win the day. There are some very smart and ecologically-minded Solid Waste managers in America who need to understand why Zero Waste is practical ... otherwise, they will be moving increasingly toward mixed-garbage-to-energy projects because it does offer them the answers they need to keep their jobs.
"There is no way to get to 100 percent recycling or the zero waste strategy that's been proposed," Marschner said. "Somebody's got to put a realistic tone on this discussion."
He also goes on to say that they have a landfill capacity problem developing. So, I would suggest that a "realistic tone" in this case would be to show him how a Resource Recovery Park, or, as Eco-Cycle calls it, a Zero Waste Park, with all of the "big six" ZW facilities (MRF, Composting, CHaRM (Hard-To-Recycle), Reuse/Repair, C&D, and a Residue Facility (trash transfer station) would result in the recovery of at least 70% of their discards (could go higher), and thus double or triple the life of their existing landfill. The "creative collection" system needed to support this ZW Park would be a mandated 3-can collection program for all households and businesses (ala San Francisco). Of course, the PAYT rates, public education and public procurement practices are supporting activities that make the Zero Waste Option not only "realistic", but also cleaner, more economic, and sustainable for the long-term. I do believe the 70% recovery rate is doable today and not an "oversell" (remember, we need to be realistic in their eyes and in reality!!), and that with time it could grow to 90% recovery. By that time, our discussion around the remaining 10% can hardly even be imagined today.
Unless we get professionals like Marschner to understand that they must leave the "mixed garbage can" behind ... it is the past ... the future REQUIRES source separation, then they keep throwing the economics of bury vs burn vs recovery in our faces. As soon as everyone realizes that source separation makes bury/burn economically OBSOLETE and totally non-competitive, we aren't going to win the day. The real problem is MIXED TRASH, and once we get that outlawed, the market will take care of much of our fight. Then we can focus on the next big problem... getting toxic materials OUT of our material stream, homes and workplaces.
The future of waste in Frederick County
Commissioners will discuss ways to deal with growing trash challenges
Originally published September 27, 2007

By Meg Bernhardt
Photo by Staff file photo by Skip Lawrence
Michael Marschner, director of the county's Utilities and Solid Waste Management Division, is preparing a strategy to be considered by commissioners next month on how to deal with solid waste disposal in the next 35 years.
The Frederick County Commissioners will begin developing a strategy next month to guide solid waste disposal policy for the next 35 years.

Their decisions will likely shape whether they opt to build the proposed incinerator designed to burn trash and generate electricity from the heat created.

The commissioners will look at bids on building such a plant at the end of October. Before they can evaluate the bids, they must make overall strategy decisions to accommodate increasing amounts of trash as landfill space declines, said Michael Marschner, the director of the county's Utilities and Solid Waste Management Division.

Incineration, or waste-to-energy as Marschner calls it, has been opposed by some who say it can be environmentally harmful and expensive for county coffers.

But Marschner thinks the commissioners need to decide soon how to proceed, since the county is trucking waste out of state.

"Eventually, they will have to make some tough decisions about what we're going to do," Marschner said. "It needs to happen in the next couple of months because we need to be given some direction."

He is preparing a report and a 2 1Ú2-hour PowerPoint presentation on his integrated waste management strategy proposal to deliver to the commissioners on Oct. 22.

Marschner anticipates his plan will include increasing recycling county-wide and for government agencies, building a waste-to-energy plant, preventing waste through different programs and education and instituting recycling programs for electronic waste such as cell phones.

After he presents it to the commissioners, he will ask them for feedback and find out what they would like to change.

The goal is to find long-term solutions to the county's waste challenges and agree on ways to implement them, he said.

The county already has a 12-year "Solid Waste Management Plan," which is the official document guiding waste policy. It is part of the county's comprehensive plan and a major rewrite on it is not due until 2017. The county completes updates roughly every three years until then.

Marschner said the integrated waste management strategy will help provide context to decisions commissioners make in the 12-year plans until 2042. The strategy looks out to the county's theoretical build-out point where the county has been developed fully.

The items in the strategy will not be officially adopted by the board of commissioners. Instead, it will document the options and describe why the commissioners and staff think different options present the most holistic guide to waste disposal over time.

Any items the commissioners want to formally move forward with will have to be reconsidered for adoption in the Solid Waste Management Plan, which goes through an extensive hearing process and review by the Maryland Department of the Environment.

"This just sets the stage for discussion on those options," Marshner said.

The county's landfill on Reich's Ford Road is short on space. The landfill has a remaining capacity of about 600,000 tons. Without out-of-state waste transfer, it would be full in about 2 1Ú2 years. With transferring it to Virginia, the landfill's life has been extended to 2040 or beyond.

Marschner said critics of waste-to-energy plants or building another landfill often suggest technology will eventually create better solutions, like nuclear fusion or other devices.

"If you start saying, well one day there'll be a solution, my question is what am I going to do with the 800 tons per day waste handled by the landfill today?" Marshner said.

Likewise, he criticized those who suggest the county can attain a 100 percent recycling rate with no waste to send to a landfill or to burn.

"There is no way to get to 100 percent recycling or the zero waste strategy that's been proposed," Marschner said. "Somebody's got to put a realistic tone on this discussion."

His strategy will call for increased recycling and separate rates for recycling and landfilling to incentivise recycling through higher costs for landfilling.

Some of the commissioners embraced increasing recycling when they discussed the strategy briefly earlier this month.

"The only way I think we're gonna get people's attention is to make it obvious they're paying more for wastefulness," said Commissioner David Gray. "You appeal to the highest principles and you reach a certain level. And there's other people only the pocketbook, I think, will wake up."

Commissioners President Jan Gardner said she would like the strategy to include recycling for multi-family homes and commercial buildings.

They did not indicate where they stand on incineration, but many have made comments indicating they are leaning toward support of it.

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