How Recycling Really Works

Emily and I walked into the community room at the C. Burr Artz Library on a hot, Thursday evening. To my surprise, the room was packed. The crowd ranged from many different age groups, but the majority being an older crowd with their bags of recyclables to ask questions about. I rejoiced in the free reusable bags offered and we readily took our seats in the first row.

When Annmarie Creamer stood in the front of the room, off the bat, you could tell this was going to be an interesting talk. Annmarie gives off a witty and charismatic vibe that while I expected a couple angry citizens to be at the talk, it seemed to be a very relaxed environment overall. Before Annmarie started working for the County in 2008 as a Recycling Outreach Program Analyst, her “prior adventure” was working as a professional gardener with degrees (yes, degrees!) in environmental studies, educational leadership and horticulture!

As the talk began, I started to formulate my own basic questions. When did the County start recycling? Why can’t we have weekly recycling? How many trucks do we even have? To my surprise, Frederick County started recycling in 1991! For less than 30 years, our recycling program has been existent.  It made me wonder how many tons of recycled matter did we let rot in our over capacity landfill. It was a scary image I pushed away.

Today, there are 80,000 households in the County that will have that blue bin outside their house waiting for recycling day. With so many people recycling nowadays, I’m sure I’m not the only person who would love a weekly recycling schedule. What seems like an easy goal to accomplish, the problem of weekly recycling goes a lot farther than I anticipated. Frederick County does not have their own recycling trucks or County employees to physically pick up those blue bins. Those blue recycling trucks you see are contracted by the County to collect our trash. There are 10 trucks (on a good day, 12) available for the entire County with about 1-3 drivers per truck. For weekly recycling, the contracted company would need to double the amount of trucks and workers to collect our recycling, which is a lot more money than Frederick County is willing to shell out. Members of the audience begin to ask questions about what can and cannot be recycled and I even learned that clam shells cannot be recycled! What would lead to another long discussion on the different types of plastics that are recyclable, we move on to the rest of the conversation.

Once our recycling gets picked up, it is taken to Frederick County’s transfer station where it will be transported to the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Elkridge, Howard County. MRF is a private business, not a government facility, owned by Waste Management Recycle America. We had the chance to watch a short video on how recyclables get sorted, which was quite interesting. Once the transfer station is done sorting our recycling into plastics, paper, metal, etc, it will be sold to industries where they will reuse those recycled materials and BAM! Recycling at its finest. Most importantly, this is where economics comes into play. I think we tend to forget that recycling is a business, not just a government responsibility. The sorting center makes the rules of what is and what isn’t accepted due to the market.

As we get more into the economics of recycling, I hear Sweet Caroline in the background as Alive @ 5 continues to go on. I find it a little humorous as I’m sure I’m not the only one who hears the music in the background. So back to the serious question being posed. Why is the recycling market in crisis? It’s because no one wants our trash anymore. China was the main buyer in recycled goods and has stopped purchasing not only our trash, but many other countries around the world. Why is that? Well to put it into simple terms: We are horrible at recycling. We send China “contaminated” recycled goods meaning there’s a lot of unrecyclable or dirty recycled products (ex. Greasy pizza boxes) that costs a lot of money to try and separate. Aside from our poor recycling habits, China has a lot of issues such as land or environmental issues they’d like to address domestically rather than continue to put money into trash.

So what now? I want to say that the simple answer is to start recycling properly, but alas, there is more that comes into play such as politics, government funding, and the market. In my opinion, I believe it’s important that we begin pouring funds into our own domestic recycling infrastructures rather than send it overseas.

Visit Recycling in Frederick County’s Facebook page for more up to date news on recycling. Link: https://www.facebook.com/FrederickRecycles/?ref=br_rs

About the author: Vanessa Moreno, a recent graduate from the University of Maryland with a degree in geography and sustainability with the hopes of becoming an urban planner one day.

McClintocks Distilling: Sustainable Spirits

McClintocks Distilling: Sustainable Spirits

When Braeden Bumpers and Tyler Hegamyer went into business in downtown Frederick, becoming successful at distilling spirits made from organic feedstock was their primary focus.

They have become green champions in Frederick County and the State of Maryland along the way.

As a result of their search for sources of organically grown grain not only in the county but in the entire state,  they accomplished two important things: becoming the first certified organic distillery in the state (and one of three on the East Coast) and providing the buying power for a Frederick County farmer to grow them organic grain..

Charles Brault, a Thurmont farmer, now supplies McClintocks with 100-120 tons per year of organic corn and rye, in several varieties*, used in the mash and process for making the vodka, rye whiskey and gin that the Frederick business sells.  (Brault  also provides grain to Baltimore Spirits Company, Grey Wolf Distilling in St Michaels, Seacrest in Ocean City).

“Originally, we had to buy all the way from Ohio because we couldn’t find any organic grain locally,” Bumpers said. Ninety-five percent of the grain growing in Maryland is treated with pesticide, Bumpers said.

Braeden and the Braults met when the business was gutting the old Ideal Garage on Carroll St, where they are located; and struck up a conversation about McClintocks’ desire to be organic. Brault, having been certified organic by the Maryland Department of Agriculture since 2006, said supplying McClintock was a “no brainer”.

Growing organic is also a financial plus for the Braults: “Farm gate prices for food grade organic grain are the highest available. Organic grain prices generally run about 3 times that of conventional grain. There is a huge shortage of domestically grown organic grain. Most of it now comes from overseas: Turkey, Ukraine, South America. This has been driving down prices for domestic producers,” Brault said..”

McClintocks also has a system of reusing all the water input into their distilling process—a heavy water user–  by reusing cooling water rather than sending it to the wastewater system for treatment.

“We’re almost waste neutral,” Bumpers said, with their brewery waste also being fed to pigs at a northern county hog farm. They are buying all their power from wind farms.

Braeden said McClintocks’ is proud of the sustainable work they are doing.”We didn’t really set out to be “green” but it just turned out that way,” he said.

 

See more about their environmental impacts here: http://www.mcclintockdistilling.com/blog/2018/4/30/how-to-drink-green-this-year

 

*Open pollinated corn: Boone County White, Bloody Butcher, Krug, Wapsie Valley, Glass Gem. Rye varieties (also open pollinated) Brasetto and Abruzzi.