New Recycling Facility Turns Green into Gold

Nature’s first green may be gold, but in Baltimore County, Md., the first publicly-owned single-stream recycling facility in the state is already proving that being green can lead straight to gold. KCI worked closely with county administrators and the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) to design the materials recycling plant and associated solid waste transfer station, where residential and commercial trash is moved into full-size trailers for transport to a local landfill.

Since it first opened in 1972, the Baltimore County Resource Recovery Facility (BCRRF) has served residents in several ways, including solid waste transfer, refuse shredding, waste-derived fuel operations, and dual-stream recycling. MES operates the current recycling sorting facility, homeowner drop-off area and transfer operation through an inter-governmental agreement.

When the county switched to single-stream recycling collections in 2010, it was forced to send material to a private firm for processing and began plans for the new plant. “When you make it more convenient for people, they’ll recycle more,” said county Solid Waste Management Bureau Chief Michael R. Beichler, CPE. “Our recycling collection immediately increased more than 30 percent.”

The new two-bay, top loading transfer facility is significantly more efficient than its predecessor. The county had previously used excavators and remote scaling, but the new layout allows trash to be dropped through a loadout chute in the tipping floor, where it falls directly into a truck that is on a live scale.

The new $23 million facility was devised with the goals of further increasing recycling participation, while improving both collection and operational performance. Significant improvements were required to upgrade the BCRRF’s overall infrastructure and onsite transfer station. A 55,000-square-foot building, which was serving as a secondary solid waste transfer point, was renovated to accommodate a highly sophisticated sorting and baling system.

“Our task was to build a new transfer facility and the infrastructure required to support the new recycling equipment while MES and the county maintained operation of the existing facility,” said KCI project manager Daniel R. String, PE. “It was a bit of a moving target and created a layered effect throughout the design and construction process.”

Demolition and replacement of the 1,600-ton-per-day transfer facility was completed first to remove operations from the existing building and make space for the sorting system. Although originally two separate projects, it quickly became apparent that overlap would be required to meet the October 2013 deadline. As Phase I work continued at the transfer station, structural improvements in the single-stream building were executed so that the equipment vendor could begin installation prior to the start of Phase II, which involved significant infrastructure and building system upgrades.

There were a lot of technical aspects to consider in bringing all of the pieces together. It was essential that we kept communication lines open and coordinated with all the parties involved in order to get the facility up and running on schedule.

Daniel R. String, PEProject Manager

Daniel R. String, PE
The single-stream facility produces clean bales of paper, metals and plastics that can be sold to manufacturers for reuse.

Although it never went offline, the newly renamed Central Acceptance Facility transfer station officially began accepting residential and commercial waste in May. Six months later, county administrators marked final completion at a ribbon-cutting for the single–stream plant, which processes recyclables at a speed of 35 tons per hour, with the capacity to sort more than 70,000 tons of per year.

In Baltimore County, it costs $61 to dispose of one ton of trash, and had cost $30 per ton to transport recyclables to a commercial processor. The new single-stream facility can generate revenues between $20 and $30 per ton on the sale of recycled materials, depending on market conditions, with the potential of returning between $750,000 and $2 million annually after expenses. The income goes into the general fund, which then offsets all taxes in the county.

“It’s one of the secrets of recycling,” said Beichler. “Everyone likes to talk about how it’s good for the environment, and it is. But the bottom line is a business decision that creates economic efficiencies.”


Central Acceptance Facility Single Stream Recycling Plant Sorting
The facility utilizes laborers from the county detention center to manually sort recyclables at the new single-stream facility.

Within the first two weeks of operation, the facility made over $80,000 just by selling baled paper. Administrators also just signed an agreement to take on a nearby county’s recyclables that could generate an additional $60,000 per month. With those kinds of returns, operators expect the plant to achieve a full return on investment fairly quickly.