Elrich Cautious on Ending Incineration in Montgomery

A Washington Post article (2019-05-09) showed the ongoing challenges counties face in disposing of trash. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich has committed to closing down the County’s trash incinerator but is moving slowly while the County figures out how to deal with the 1,800 tons of trash that is currently sent to the incinerator every day.

The article stated that while an anti-incinerator group supports sending the trash to a landfill while the County works to reduce the amount of trash it generates, Elrich is concerned about the fiscal and environmental costs of dramatically increasing the amount that is landfilled. Elrich prefers to reduce the amount of trash being generated first and then close the incinerator. The article noted that the incinerator reduces the volume of waste by two-thirds.

Montgomery is already a leader when it comes to waste diversion, recycling or composting roughly 60 percent of its waste (the national average is 35 percent). Initially, Elrich promised to end incineration operations by 2022. The incinerator’s current contract with the county runs through 2026 although the County can opt out at any time. From the article:

The left-leaning county executive, who served three terms on the council before landing the top job, is “our best shot,” [Sugarloaf Citizens’ Association President Lauren] Greenberger said. “I’m not saying I think landfills are really a wonderful thing. I’m looking at what’s least hazardous for my health, my family’s health and greenhouse gases in the world.”

Paul Gilman, chief sustainability officer and senior vice president of Covanta, the New Jersey-based company that operates Montgomery’s incinerator, said some groups — including Greenberger’s — may have an outdated view of incinerators. …

“If I can’t do it by 2022, then 2026 gives me four more years,” Elrich said. “I’m not going to do a bad solution in ’22 just to say I did it in ’22. I would rather be on a path to a good solution. If it’s a year or two or three years later, I can live with it. As long as it’s a better solution than what we’re doing now.”

The article also discussed the plans of the County’s Department of Environmental Protection Director Adam Ortiz to increase recycling and composting and reduce the amount of trash going to either the incinerator or a landfill.

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