DPW developing long-term waste management plan

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DPW’s new smart cans. Photo by Ethan McLeod

With the city’s largest landfill approaching capacity, the viability of the Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems Co. (BRESCO) waste-to-energy plant in question and the city having one of the worst recycling rates in Maryland, Baltimore’s Department of Public Works is developing a long-term plan for recycling and disposing of waste.

And the agency wants the public’s input.

The department tapped Geosyntec Consultants, of Columbia, to develop a full report, titled “Less Waste, Better Baltimore,” by the end of the year. It’ll offer “guidelines that provide the best path forward for DPW and everyone who relies on the City’s sanitation services,” DPW Director Rudy Chow said in an announcement.

“Our customers, taxpayers, elected officials, and others deserve a recommendation that challenges us, leads us along the best path, and moves us efficiently and effectively,” Chow said in his statement.

Per DPW, the city-owned solid waste landfill on Quarantine Road in Hawkins Point is “rapidly reaching its permitted capacity” and has about seven years before maxing out.

The BRESCO incinerator, where 75 percent of the city’s waste goes, is “aging and may not be a viable long-term option,” DPW says. State regulators have placed limits on the emissions from the plant, but activists said last September those measures are not enough, pointing to the high rates of asthma in the city and poor air quality in South Baltimore.

State and city lawmakers put forth two proposals last year to curb emissions from the BRESCO incinerator. And earlier this week, Baltimore City Council members held a hearing on a bill from Councilman Ed Reisinger that would strengthen regulations on the trash-burning plant. Some 700,000 tons of trash are burned at the incinerator each year, with the resulting steam being sold to heat and cool buildings downtown.

And, DPW says, state figures show Baltimore City has one of the worst recycling participating rates in Maryland.

The city has in recent years distributed municipal trash cans to residents, placed smart cans with recycling bins on the street and increased street sweeping to combat these waste management issues, DPW says. But more must be done in the future.

“The time is now for Baltimore to consider its long-term strategy for reducing solid waste generation, offering more options for reusing or repurposing waste materials, increasing recycling rates, and disposing of what’s left in the most economic and sustainable manner,” the department says in its pitch on the plan. “Doing so will not only benefit residents, homeowners, and businesses, but will also help support economic growth and prosperity in the City.”

Here’s where John and Jane Q. Public come in.

DPW is offering a survey for residents to fill out, and will be scheduling two focus group meetings at to-be-determined locations.

For more information, visit Less Waste, Better Baltimore’s website here.

Brandon Weigel

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